Overy’s sure Brondesbury are on the right track - even if they miss out on promotion this time

Brondesbury's Buddy Mason (left) celebrates after dismissing Highgate's Chris Arul at Harman Drive.

Brondesbury's Buddy Mason (left) celebrates after dismissing Highgate's Chris Arul at Harman Drive. Pic: Max Flego - Credit: Max Flego

James Overy believes Brondesbury have proved they are on the right track even if they miss out on promotion to the Premier Division of the Middlesex County League this weekend.

The opening batsman held his nerve with an unbeaten half-century to seal a nail-biting win over Highgate with just two balls left and keep alive Brondesbury’s hopes of a top-flight return.

However, even if the Harman Drive club triumph in their final game of the season at Enfield on Saturday, they will still be relying on a slip-up by second-placed Barnes at home to Harrow St Mary’s.

Yet Overy, who has been with Brondesbury since 2009 and witnessed the three-time league champions’ fall from grace in recent years, feels there is good reason to be optimistic about the future.

“Whatever happens, we need to work on things – we know we’re not a finished team, but we’re certainly going in the right direction,” said Overy.

“That’s a lot better than a few years ago, when it was a bit of a struggle. I think a lot of us thought we were better than we were – now we’re more aware of what we can do and what we can’t do.

“Adam Wilson’s done a great job as captain, we’ve got a clear idea of how we want to play and everyone else has bought into it. There are a few senior players here now – I’ve just played my 100th game and Sam Smith’s on about 90.

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“We’ve always had people like Tom Simpson, Ben Claypole and Rob Nelson to rely on, so it’s good that some of us can take on those senior roles now and hopefully go up and go further.

“We want to be a Premier Division club, that’s why we’re all playing – and, if not this year, then next year.”

Brondesbury lost the toss against relegation-threatened Highgate, who opted to bat – but Smith (2-20) made early inroads by bowling visiting skipper Jake Sharland for a first-ball duck.

Opening partner Chris Arul soon followed, caught behind off Buddy Mason for a single, and Highgate were floundering at 7-3 when Sandun Dias (4) also fell to Smith.

Matt Holly (16) and Muazam Ali (23) led a recovery before Will Brookes marshalled the visitors’ lower order with an excellent knock of 60 from 66 balls, ably supported by Craig Gourlay (15) and Phil Knott (28).

Mason (4-40) returned to clean up the tail by dismissing both Brookes and Knott, sandwiching the wicket of Scott Thaxton (1) and ensuring that Highgate were bowled out for 170 in the 45th over.

Tight bowling from Robin Glassberg (1-23), who rattled through his nine overs unchanged, and Dias (2-31), meant that Brondesbury struggled to score quickly at the start of their reply.

With Hugh Gimber (11) and Jordan Bethel (3) both caught at the wicket, the home side were finding the chase tricky at 26-2 – and it would have been harder still had Overy not been put down at mid-on soon afterwards.

Overy then dropped anchor, while Sasha Ward also survived a chance as he contributed a lively 39 to their partnership of 58, only to be bowled as he attempted to reverse-sweep Holly (1-12).

Smith struck a quick 16 before top-edging Dias back into the bowler’s hands – and a diving catch from the Sri Lankan off Gourlay then removed Adam Sargent (1) and reduced Brondesbury to 126-5.

But Overy remained unbeaten on 63, while Anthony Wilkinson (35 no) kept his side up with the required run-rate and slammed Gourlay for successive boundaries in the final over to seal a tense five-wicket win.

“I’ve had an awful season, to be honest, so it was nice to have a bit of luck and, once I got a second chance, I knew I had to be around at the end and make sure we won the game,” added Overy.

“You always know 20 minutes either way could swing the game and it was really close – Highgate bowled really well and I was a bit nervous at one point, but Wilko came in and took all the pressure off me.

“It’s always good to chase under pressure and hopefully that will give us the confidence to go to Enfield, where it’s a pretty good batting deck, and make it a bit easier for ourselves.

“We knew we had to win this game and we had to win the next one so, whatever happens with Barnes, happens. If we don’t win our game we won’t deserve to go up anyway.”