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North Middlesex give reigning champions Hampstead a scare at Park Road

PUBLISHED: 14:56 19 May 2014 | UPDATED: 15:17 19 May 2014

Joel Hughes took a wicket on his debut for North Middlesex. Pic: Max Flego

Joel Hughes took a wicket on his debut for North Middlesex. Pic: Max Flego

Max Flego Sports Photography

North Middlesex’s young side came away empty-handed – but by no means disgraced – after giving reigning champions Hampstead a real scare at Park Road in the Premier Division of the Middlesex County Cricket League.

Matt Cracknell also made his first appearance for North Middlesex. Pic: Max FlegoMatt Cracknell also made his first appearance for North Middlesex. Pic: Max Flego

The home side could only muster a modest 158 after being sent in on a juicy wicket, but hopes of an unexpected victory were raised when they reduced Hampstead to 66-4 in reply.

However, Ragheb Aga – who survived a chance at slip – rescued his side with a classy half-century which took the game away from North Midd as the visitors edged home by three wickets.

North Midd skipper Tom Nicoll said: “Hampstead are a quality side and they thoroughly deserved the win, but we had our chances and there is no doubt that we can compete at this level. We are a talented young side with a lot of improvement left in the tank.”

Asked to bat on a juicy wicket, North Midd lost their homegrown teenage opening pair, Connor Nurse (4) and Zulfi Azom (4), early on due to disciplined seam bowling from Khan and Aga.

North Middlesex captain Tom Nicoll loses his wicket after a delivery from Ragheb Aga. Pic: Max FlegoNorth Middlesex captain Tom Nicoll loses his wicket after a delivery from Ragheb Aga. Pic: Max Flego

Evan Flowers rode his luck for a while, surviving a series of appeals to post 26 before becoming the first of four victims claimed by young left-arm seamer Hassan, who also removed Michael Clements (3).

North Midd’s middle order failed to gain traction after a succession of promising starts – Tom Nicoll (14) and Maruf Chowdhury looked at ease before a suicidal run-out saw Chowdhury depart for a well- compiled 27.

The lower order showed considerable fight, with some explosive hitting from John Mills (17) and Nick Brand (32) adding some starch to the total before North Midd were bundled out for 158 from 54 overs.

Hampstead openers George Adair (26) and Rob Jones (8) started the chase positively with some early boundaries before Jones was caught by Flowers off debutant Joel Hughes.

Hampstead's Zak Khan (left) bowls North Middlesex's Nick Brand at Park Road in Crouch End. Pic: Max FlegoHampstead's Zak Khan (left) bowls North Middlesex's Nick Brand at Park Road in Crouch End. Pic: Max Flego

The Geordie paceman and Nick Brand (2-31) applied the brakes and former Middlesex man Ben Scott was run out for 11, while Freddie Fairhead was snared lbw by Brand (2-31) and Adair was caught behind by another debutant, 17-year-old wicketkeeper Matthew Cracknell.

That left Hampstead 66-4 and, although Hassan and Aga steadied the ship and added 40 runs together, Hassan (14) fell to a diving outfield catch from Flowers off the bowling of North Midd skipper Nicoll (1-32) and the game was up for grabs.

Nicoll’s bowling continued to provide chances for the home side, but after surviving a drop at slip, the class of Aga (65) took the game away from North Midd as he became the only player in the match to post a half century.

He was eventually caught by Nicoll of the bowling of Ed Bird (2-32) but Liam Hughes (5), Charlie Cooke (16 not out) and Archie Fellowes (0no) took Hampstead across the line.

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