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Russell stars with bat and bat to keep victorious Highgate in the promotion spots

13:42 18 August 2014

Will Russell (centre) celebrates with his Highgate team-mates. Pic: Max Flego

Will Russell (centre) celebrates with his Highgate team-mates. Pic: Max Flego

Max Flego Sports Photography

Will Russell took five wickets and then smashed an unbeaten 86 to keep Highgate’s Division Three promotion challenge on course against struggling Ickenham.

Russell returned his second five-wicket haul of the campaign as Highgate bowled out their visitors for 218 – only to find themselves in danger of a shock defeat after slumping to 126-5 in reply.

However, Russell’s stand of 77 with captain Craig Gourlay proved to be crucial and the all-rounder finished proceedings with a boundary to edge his side over the line by two wickets at 222-8.

Gourlay won the toss and inserted Ickenham, but the league’s basement boys were initially equal to their task as Greg Knowles and Charith Gunasekera put together an opening partnership of 84.

Russell (5-56) made the breakthrough by dismissing Knowles one short of his half-century, but Joe Mannick (20) helped Gunasekera to raise the Ickenham total to a healthy 143-1.

The game rapidly swung back in Highgate’s favour, though, as Russell removed Gunasekera for 69 and then won a trio of successful lbw appeals against Mannick, Sam Bensted and George Bensted – the latter pair both for ducks.

Ickenham continued to crumble, with Jack Peck (2-53) dismissing Paul Sims (1) and Gourlay (3-30) accounting for Elliot Evans (4) and Vrushant Patel (6).

Gourlay added the wicket of Steve Gibson (10), while Scott Wilsher’s innings of 48 hauled the visitors’ total up to 218 before he was last out, bowled by Peck in the 49th over.

Highgate suffered an early blow in their run chase, with Will Bowley run out for just a single, but Chris Arul (45) and Ed Binns (19) steered them to a solid 64-1.

Although both batsmen then departed in quick succession, there was no immediate cause for panic as Russell and Nick Brunner (27) added 52 for the fourth wicket.

However, Vrushant Patel (4-47) ended Brunner’s stay at the crease before bowling William Brookes (4) and, with another 93 still needed, Highgate suddenly looked vulnerable.

Russell and Gourlay looked assured as they chipped away at the target, but Patel caused the home side some anxious moments as he dismissed Gourlay for 40 and then Johan de Silva (0) two balls later.

Freddie Barrass also failed to score before he fell to Knowles (2-66), but Russell steadied Highgate’s nerves and clinched victory at the start of the 52nd over.

The result keeps Highgate second in the table, nine points behind their next opponents Wembley – and just two ahead of fellow rivals Acton, who they face the following week.

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