North Middlesex take lion’s share of the spoils in draw against Hampstead
13:43 21 July 2014
Max Flego Sports Photography
North Middlesex closed the gap on their relegation rivals in the Premier Division of the Middlesex County Cricket League after taking the lion’s share of the spoils in a winning draw against Hampstead.
Asked to bat, Hampstead struggled to 53-4, but Mubasher Hassan hit 73 as the hosts reached 216-9 from their maximum 66 overs.
A rollercoaster affair continued when North Midd replied, and all results were possible in a thrilling climax.
In the end the visitors passed the target for a winning draw (177), with Joe Hewton contributing 46 and Hassan taking 4-33 – but they fell 17 runs short of victory, with two wickets in hand.
North Midd remain in the bottom two but have narrowed the gap on Hampstead and Brondesbury, who were defeated by another relegation rival, Hornsey.
Captain Tom Nicoll said: “This was a game we should have won, with fine bowling from Ed Bird and Joel Hughes and an excellent knock by Joe Hewton.
“We let ourselves down in the hour after lunch and that cost us. Overall we have put together three strong performances to pick up 24 points in the last three weeks. I’m more and more confident we can stay up.”
Nicoll asked Hampstead to bat on a greenish wicket and in humid conditions which helped the bowlers – and seamers Hughes and Bird quickly settled into their rhythm.
Bird (3-51) took two early wickets, bowling Hampstead skipper Steve Clark (9) and then having George Adair (11) caught behind by Hewton, leaving the hosts 26-2 in the 16th over.
Nick Brand (1-23) also had success in his first over, having Middlesex CCC man Freddie Fairhead caught behind for five – and Michael Clements (1-14) was then introduced for his first bowl of the season and immediately had Ben Scott (11) caught at slip by Nicoll.
At lunch, Hampstead were in some trouble at 53-4 off 30 overs, but Hassan and Charlie Cooke took the attack to the bowlers, who were unable to re-establish their stranglehold, adding 78 runs for the fifth wicket.
Cooke (22) was eventually run out after a superb piece of fielding by Connor Nurse, leaving Hampstead 131-5 – and Bird quickly claimed his third wicket as new batsman Shaun Hill was caught behind for two.
With Hampstead now 140-6, North Midd were on top again, and the returning Hughes (1-44) took the key wicket of Hassan, who was well caught in the deep by Adam Holmes after striking a fine 73, including 10 boundaries.
Hampstead slowly reached 174-7 off 60 overs before the tail-enders added 42 in the final six overs.
Hanish Patel (31) was trapped lbw by Nicoll (1-22), and Chris Beaumont-Dark (8) became wicketkeeper Hewton’s fourth victim off the bowling of Will Nicoll (1-40).
Hampstead’s innings ended on 216-9, with Zak Khan (10) and Nick Brown (7) the unbeaten batsmen.
North Midd’s chase got off to a poor start as Nurse (2) was bowled by Clark (3-44) but Michael Clements and his fellow Aussie Evan Flowers added 49 before Flowers (25) was out lbw to Clark.
Hassan (4-33) then removed both Clements (24) and Tom Nicoll (2), leaving the visitors 92-4, but Hewton and Hughes put together a partnership of 77 to swing the match North Midd’s way again and keep them ahead of the run rate for the winning draw.
However, Hassan removed Hughes (34) and, when John Mills (1) was bowled by Clark, North Midd were 170-6, needing 48 off 10 overs to win.
Moments later Hewton (46) fell to Hassan with the score on 174 -7, and it was Hampstead’s turn to scent victory.
But North Midd’s lower order held firm and, although Will Nicoll was unluckily run out for four, Holmes (9 not out) and Brand (7no) saw out the last few overs despite fading light and the attentions of a posse of close catchers to pick up the four points.
The chairman of Hampstead’s playing committee, Nick Brown, reflected: “I think anyone who saw the game on Saturday would agree that it made tremendous viewing, with momentum shifting many times and the result in the balance right until the end.
“We are beset by injuries at the moment. Ragheb Aga, Liam Hughes, Rob Jones and Jordan Price were all out on Saturday and that meant we needed things to go our way, starting with the toss, so being sent into bat in bowler friendly conditions was far from ideal.
“I have to give a lot of credit to the North Midd bowlers. They hit the right length at good pace, especially Ed Bird and, at lunch, 53-4 was a difficult position for us to be in.
“Whilst it might not make sense, I also thought our top order did a fantastic job. They really dug in and their determination at least kept us in the game, because on another day we could have been skittled before lunch.
“I’m not sure what happened to the North Midd bowling right after lunch, as we scored close to 50 off six overs and then continued the fightback to wrest some momentum back in our direction. Credit to Mubasher Hassan, Charlie Cooke and Hanish Patel for their contribution.
Brown continued: “It was better batting conditions when North Midd started their innings, but nonetheless I never felt that they got away from us and thought we were always in the game.
“Once again, Mubasher Hassan and Steve Clark did a great job with the ball, but we certainly missed Ragheb and I think Jordan would have been a real handful as well. But credit to Hewton and Hughes, they worked hard and got their team up to the wining draw.
“Hopefully we will get some players back next week, but there is no certainty of that, so we will have to see.
“Looking forward, there are still 70 points to play for but Teddington look a long way away now. However, we haven’t given up just yet, and the whole league is very tight, so there will be a lot of interesting matches left in the 2014 season.”