Flowers flies in to help North Middlesex return to winning ways at Stanmore

Evan Flowers flew back from Germany on Saturday and endured a sleepless night to help North Middlesex return to winning ways in the Premier Division of the Middlesex County Cricket League.

The Park Road side, who had been bowled out for 122 in an eight-wicket defeat to Twickenham the previous weekend, were in trouble again at 39-3 after 15 overs at Stanmore on Saturday.

But Flowers hit 99, with his concentration failing just one run short of his century as the visitors declared on a healthy 274-9, and Joel Hughes then took his first five-for of the season as North Midd had their hosts 20-6 before bowling them out for 143.

After five 50-over matches at the start of the Premier Division campaign, this clash marked the return to the timed format and, under a new system, North Midd were awarded 13 points because they batted first and won.

Captain Tom Nicoll said: “It was great to see the boys producing such a dominant performance after last week’s set-back. Evan Flowers and Joel Hughes were brilliant for us, and showed once again that they are class acts.”

Asked to bat in chilly, overcast conditions, North Midd suffered a poor start as Joe Cracknell (10), Will Vanderspar (9) and Will Nicoll (12) departed early on.

But Flowers and Tom Nicoll led a revival, adding 92 together with an array of classy shots. Nicoll (46) stroked two sixes and five fours before being caught off Mukesh Bhatt (5-94) while attempting another six.

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That put the game back into the balance at 131-4 after 28 overs, but Joe Hewton and Flowers put on another 86 runs, with 50 of them coming in 10 overs after lunch.

Bhatt finally removed Flowers, who agonisingly missed a straight one on 99, but his efforts had put North Midd into a strong position at 217-5 after 48 overs.

Hewton (47) continued to work the ball around while Sam Webber punished some loose bowling, hitting two monstrous sixes in a destructive cameo of 24 from just 11 deliveries.

Hewton’s dismissal triggered a mini-collapse, with Webber (24) and Hughes (1) also departing as 250-5 became 261-8, and Jaron Semper went for five before Tom Nicoll called his troops in at 274-9 after 56 overs.

North Midd made a sensational start with the ball as Webber (3-31) dislodged the off-stump of Navin Samarakoon (4) in the third over, and his fellow opener Steve Mehra (7) was then caught by Adam Holmes off Hughes (5-50).

Worse was to follow for Stanmore as they lost their next four wickets for just two runs. Kunal Mehta (1), who had earlier pulled a hamstring, was run out in the chaos that is often seen with three batsmen at the crease and Webber then bowled Chamika Karunaratne (1) and Tim Percival (0) before Hughes removed Tushaar Karia (0) with one of the best balls of his career.

Rishi Pandya (61) and Grant Reingold (41) put up a brave fight, maturely fending off deliveries for almost 28 overs and the best part of two hours in a stand of 91 before Grant Reingold was run out in kamikaze fashion, ending up at the same end as his partner while attempting a fourth run.

Steven Reingold (4) was soon caught behind by Holmes off Hughes and the brick wall of Pandya, who had survived a few appeals during the course of the afternoon, finally fell leg before to Hughes.

Marc Reingold and Bhatt went down swinging, with the former hitting 10 from six deliveries and Bhatt striking 10 from 10 as they added 16 for the final wicket - but Hughes cleaned out Bhatt to complete his five-wicket haul, and North Midd’s triumph.