Hampstead are firmly in the title race as Rayner inspires latest triumph
- Credit: EMPICS Sport
Middlesex CCC man Ollie Rayner struck 71 and took three wickets on his debut for Hampstead as the reigning champions recorded their fourth victory from five games and advanced into the top three.
Freddie Fairhead also hit an unbeaten 67 as the hosts declared on 282-6 after 63 overs against struggling Stanmore – and Rayner then took 3-27 with the ball, while Jordan Price (3-51) and Chris Beaumont-Dark (2-6) were also influential in dismissing the visitors for 147 in the 41st over.
That meant Hampstead leapfrogged Twickenham and, with league leaders Teddington also losing, they moved ever closer to the top.
The chairman of the playing committee, Nick Brown, said: “There is no doubt we have momentum with us right now and we are playing well.
“After the win last week I said that we still weren’t in the mix but I think we are now. This is a high-wire act – one mistake and it could all be over – but we’ve been here before and have lots of top-level cricket experience.
“Having Ollie Rayner was a massive boost for us as we were without [captain] Steve Clark, but there were lots of other contributions from across the team.”
Asked to bat, Hampstead’s openers started well, with George Adair and Archie Fellowes reaching 63 without loss.
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Adair (39), stand-in skipper Ben Scott (5) and Fellowes (28) departed in rapid succession, leaving the home side 73-3, but Ragheb Aga and Rayner added 71 together. And, when Aga (39) was caught, Rayner and Fairhead shared a 59-run partnership, taking Hampstead to 203-4.
Rayner (71) became the fourth batsman to be caught by Cameron Steel, and Mubasher Hassan (3) soon followed, but Fairhead (67 not out) and Charlie Cooke (25no) took their side to a sizeable declaration at 282-6.
Stanmore’s chase began badly as Price removed Kunal Mehta (5) and then caught the visitors’ other opener Steve Mehra (3) off Mubasher Hassan (1-30) before prising out Steel (6).
That left the visitors in trouble at 24-3. And, although Stevie Eskinazi and ex-England batsman Mark Ramprakash steadied the ship with a 44-run stand, Ramprakash (13) was dismissed by Mark Jones (1-29) and his replacement Tim Percival could only add one run before being caught by Scott off Rayner.
Eskinazi (51) was still at the crease, reaching his half century as Stanmore passed the 100-mark, but he was caught by Aga off Rayner – and Aga also caught William Hanson (10) and Marc Reingold (35) off Price and Rayner, taking his third and fourth catches as both bowlers claimed their third wickets.
The end was nigh at 131-8 and Beaumont-Dark cleaned up the tail in an effective 3.5-over spell, snaring Sam Helm (10) and Mukesh Bhatt (4) leg before as Stanmore fell 135 runs short.
Brown said: “This was an even better performance than last week [against Richmond].
“Stanmore are a strong side. It doesn’t matter how many points they have in the table, they had two of the top five wicket-takers in the league, the top run scorer as well as Mark Ramprakash, so we are very pleased.
“I don’t like to single any players out as our success is based on the collective, but George Adair showed again that he is as good as any opening batter in the league.
“Ragheb Aga is also a star. He is currently carrying an injury and can’t bowl, but his batting is top class and his catching is professional standard.
“Freddie Fairhead showed his quality with the bat, and if the weather stays dry he will also bowl teams out over the run-in.
“Steve will be back next week and we also hope to have Liam Hughes back after a sprained ankle as well.”