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Gourlay: Highgate can reflect on a strong season despite missing out on promotion

14:06 01 September 2014

Craig Gourlay bats for Highgate. Pic: Max Flego

Craig Gourlay bats for Highgate. Pic: Max Flego

Max Flego Sports Photography

Craig Gourlay says Highgate can feel satisfied with their league showing this season despite missing out on promotion to Division Two.

Freddie Barrass took 6-80 for Highgate. Pic: Paolo MinoliFreddie Barrass took 6-80 for Highgate. Pic: Paolo Minoli

Highgate’s hopes of going up were ended on Saturday when they lost at Acton, who claimed the runners-up spot behind champions Wembley as a result.

But stand-in captain Gourlay, who struck a valiant unbeaten 67 as the visitors fell 90 runs short, feels his side should not be disheartened by their performances during the current campaign.

“I have to be objective and say ‘Acton have beaten us twice, Wembley have beaten us twice’ and that shows there are two better teams than us in this competition,” Gourlay told the Gazette.

“At the start of each year we aim for eight wins and we’ve actually got that this time. Usually eight wins is enough, with a few four-pointers – but this year is a total anomaly.

“Internally, we look at our season and we’ve done all we set out to do, but it hasn’t been enough and it’s a credit to these two teams who have done more.

“We win more than we lose and we’ve got four new guys this year who are all young guys and all first-teamers. So club-wise we are happy with the year we’ve had.

“But it’s disappointing not to be either playing for promotion this week or already there. We’ll turn up against the Tamils on Saturday with good spirit and focus, then we’ll come back next year.”

Gourlay won the toss at Acton and opted to field, gaining early successes as Freddie Barrass (6-80) removed openers James Hunt (6) and Danyal Ahmad (11).

But the home side’s overseas star Hannadige Soysa took control as he hit a sparkling century, sharing a third-wicket partnership of 144 with Dan Waddell (66).

Although Waddell was eventually caught off Scott Thaxton (1-40), Yasir Mehmood (21) helped the free-scoring Soysa to add another 67 and lift the Acton total to 235-3.

Barrass bowled Mehmood and took a catch off Ed Foster (2-90) to end Soysa’s innings of 131 from 122 balls before picking up another three wickets as Acton scrambled to an imposing total of 298-9 from 53 overs.

The four-point target of 265 seemed a more realistic aim for the visitors and, although they lost Will Bowley to a questionable leg before decision for 15, Chris Arul (22) and Ed Atkins (14) steered them to 54-1.

But Atkins, who had just survived a chance at mid-off, was stumped off James Hunt (1-48) and when Arul was caught behind soon afterwards off Tom Forsdike (3-35), Highgate were in trouble at 58-3.

Ed Binns (25) seemed to be hitting his stride when he was taken at slip off Forsdike and, when Nick Brunner (0) was caught behind attempting to hook the next ball, the visitors were 95-5.

Will Russell (48) and Gourlay kept their side’s hopes alive with a stand of 72 but, when Russell was tempted down the wicket by Acton skipper John Reeve, wicketkeeper Alex Manning completed his second stumping.

With the required run-rate climbing into double figures, Gourlay was left stranded on 67 not out as Alex Brennan (4-29) cleaned up the tail – and sealed his side’s promotion – in the 43rd over.

“Soysa really did take his chances and the way he batted, with pace, enabled them to control the game,” added Gourlay, who has led Highgate in the absence of injured skipper Jake Sharland.

“Their batting really set it up, but I did think we gave ourselves a chance – we felt if we needed 100 from the last 10 overs or thereabouts, we could pull a rabbit out of the hat.

“But it’s hard to play on a big ground against good, tight spin bowling and the Acton spinners are seasoned performers, so all credit to them.”

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