Hampstead are one win away from the title after dramatic victory over North Middlesex
- Credit: Archant
Hampstead could be crowned kings of the Middlesex County League for the second time in three years this weekend after Saturday’s dramatic victory over North Middlesex.
The Lymington Road side struck the winning runs off the final ball to earn their sixth successive victory – and another triumph at eighth-placed Southgate on Saturday would secure the Premier Division title, which the club won for the first time in 2013.
If they fall short then Hampstead would face the prospect of a decisive top-of-the-table showdown away at second-placed Richmond.
The chairman of Hampstead’s playing committee, Nick Brown, said: “We’ve been in this position before but only five of the players from the 2013 team are likely to play, so it will be a new experience for the rest. However, we have to go there with the confidence that six wins in a row gives us.”
Hampstead captain Steve Clark inserted visiting North Midd, who lost early wickets, with Clark (2-39) having both Will Vanderspar (10) and teenager Ollie Tikare (1) caught by Ragheb Aga to leave them 16-2.
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Clark and Aga (2-29) then switched roles to remove Atif Zafar (12), while North Midd captain Tom Nicoll (11) became Aga’s second victim.
Evan Flowers survived a dropped catch to reach 37 but was then caught off the bowling of Will Roberts (2-33) as a ‘not out’ verdict was overturned – and when his replacement Connor Nurse (11) was caught and bowled by Chris Beaumont-Dark (2-41), North Midd were 116-6.
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Sam Webber also saw a catch go down as he blazed 42 off 43 balls, including four fours and three sixes, but he was then trapped lbw by Beaumont-Dark. And, although veterans Adam Holmes (16) and Alex Hill (23) nudged the score up to 186-7, they both perished without adding to that total.
It seemed North Midd were going to fall short of 200, but youngsters Ethan Bamber (23 not out) and Ben Owen (25no) – who was the third batsman to get away with a dropped catch at 205-9 – showed their elders the way with a swashbuckling unbeaten last-wicket stand of 53 off just 38 balls as the visitors ended their allotted 50 overs on 239-9.
Clark went for a duck at the start of Hampstead’s reply but George Adair (52) and Jamie Gibson (26) added 88 for the second wicket before departing in quick succession.
Jaahid Ali then struck 73 off 84 balls alongside Aga (28), Liam Hughes (6) and Freddie Fairhead (17) to lead Hampstead to 234-5.
They only needed six to win from the last couple of overs – but Nicoll (3-45) took a stunning one-handed catch off his own bowling to prise out Ali before also removing Fairhead to leave the hosts 235-7.
Bamber (2-48) took the ball for the final over, with Hampstead seven down and still needing five runs to win. Fellowes (5) got an inside edge that ran away for four but was then bowled, and the incoming Beaumont-Dark perished for a duck, run out by Vanderspar.
It all came down to the final ball, and Charlie Wedgewood’s thin outside edge went for four, securing all 10 points in thrilling style and giving Hampstead a chance to tie up the title this weekend with a game to spare.
Brown said: “It was a superb game of cricket, culminating with an incredibly dramatic final over. It’s difficult to describe the relief that we were able to get over the line again.
“We did make it difficult for ourselves. We dropped too many other catches and three of them in particular probably cost us 80 runs.
“Any score of 230 or more is a difficult chase in the amateur game. We were indebted again to George Adair and Jaahid Ali. Jaahid batted superbly and had looked like he was going to lead us all the way to victory.
“I don’t think Ethan Bamber could have done any more in the last over. Every ball was almost perfect yorker length and the only runs we scored were from an inside edge and a thin outside edge – both went for four.”