Hampstead captain: Rule change won’t affect our tactics at the coin toss

Hampstead captain Steve Clark. Pic: Paolo Minoli

Hampstead captain Steve Clark. Pic: Paolo Minoli - Credit: Archant

Hampstead captain Steve Clark says he will continue to base his decision at the coin toss on the conditions and ignore the extra points that are on offer under the Premier Division’s new rules.

Teams who bat first and win are now rewarded with 13 points rather than the 10 points which go to sides who bat second and emerge victorious.

Clark was faced with the new dilemma on Saturday when he won the toss at home against Finchley. He elected to bat second and was vindicated as his side bowled the visitors out for 234 before chasing down the target with three wickets in hand, largely thanks to a 117-run partnership between Jamie Gibson (101) and Liam Hughes (47).

However, Hampstead dropped a place in the table, being overtaken by North Middlesex, who picked up 13 points after being put in by Stanmore and coming out on top.

“We were thinking about it at the start of the game,” Clark told Ham&High Sport. “We came to the decision, after kicking it around a little bit, that you’ve got to play the situation and the conditions more than the points. There’s no point going all out for the points because you can put yourself on the back foot to start with, if the conditions don’t suit.

“We take the points thing out of the equation. You get some wickets where it’s a good toss to lose – you don’t really know what to do. I think in those cases it might sway you, but the majority of the decisions will be based on the conditions.”

Having started the season with five 50-over matches under the league’s new rules, the top flight returned to the timed format on Saturday.

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Hampstead initially had Finchley 10-2 and 35-3 as Jamie Gibson (2-63) and Clark (1-31) made a strong start with the ball, but Fred Daeche-Marshall (59) and Niraj Jadav (28) made an 85-run stand.

They were both removed by Ragheb Aga (2-24), who also ran out Hassan Khan (1) as the visitors lost three wickets for just three runs, but the tail wagged and Jamie Powe (38), Frahan Butt (17), Muhammad Arshad (35) and Sunil Tailor (19 not out) took Finchley to 234 before they were bowled out after 57.5 overs, with Hughes (3-44) taking three of the last four wickets.

Hampstead made a slow start with the bat, with openers Clark and George Adair both perishing on 12, while Jonathan Dunne went for a duck and Aga fell on nine, leaving the hosts 77-4.

But Gibson and Hughes turned the innings around, both surviving dropped catches to put on 117 for the fifth wicket. And, although they departed in quick succession, Jack Biddulph (13) and Archie Fellowes (27no) helped Hampstead to reach 238-7 after 42.3 overs.

It was new signing Gibson’s first league century of the season, and Clark said: “He’s a very good player. He’s been due some runs, he’s had a few funny ways of getting out. He’s just managed to get himself out and he’s been due a big score so it’s great to see him do that.

“The new 50-over format in the first five games has been brilliant, there’s been a great injection of energy. It’s made the games a lot more tense - as a captain now you walk off and you’re emotionally drained as well as being tired.

“We were unlucky [when we lost] at Stanmore in our previous game - there were a few moments which didn’t go our way and had they gone our way we probably would have won the game, which would have put us second now.

“But we’re in a great situation as we stand at the moment, we’ve got momentum. We’ve had a few games where we just managed to win and haven’t managed to fire on all cylinders so the confidence is pretty high at the moment.

“There’s been a few games where we’ve done one thing well and another thing badly, - it might have been our bowling or dropping a few catches. So I think if we come together on the day and play in all facets then we’ll do well, and that’s how we feel at the moment.”

Fourth-placed Hampstead visit third-placed North Middlesex in their next fixture on Saturday and Clark said: “I don’t know a great deal about them, I try to keep it like that.

“You generally get to know the good players on the grapevine, but if you end up looking too much into other teams then you end up concentrating on them and not on yourself, in my opinion. Whoever turns up we’ll do our best to beat them and try to take their spot.”