Highgate eye early promotion ahead of derby clash with North London

Highgate coach James Maby is urging his players to maintain their focus ahead of the derby clash that could seal their Middlesex County League promotion.

The runaway Division Three leaders, who are unbeaten in the league all season, will go up if they triumph away to neighbours North London on Saturday.

However, NL – one of the few teams to take points off Highgate this season – are also desperate to win as they fight to stave off relegation.

“My boys can’t wait to take on our local rivals on Saturday and we’ll be hoping to do better than the winning draw that was attained earlier in the season,” said Maby.

“We are close to promotion, but I keep reminding the players that cricket can be a cruel mistress and how vital it is to stay in the present.”

Highgate, who are 25 points clear at the top, will go up if they beat North London because their closest challengers, South Hampstead and Barnes, meet on Saturday.

Hashen Ramanayake and Craig Gourlay came to Highgate’s rescue with bat and ball as they inched closer to promotion with a 52-run victory over Bessborough on Saturday.

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The Highgate pair, along with Will Brookes, both produced valuable knocks to guide the league leaders to a respectable total of 179 after they had slumped to 26-4.

Ramanayake then took four wickets, with Gourlay picking up three, as the visitors were bowled out for 127 to maintain Highgate’s unbeaten record and commanding lead at the top.

Struggling Bessborough won the toss at Shepherd’s Cot and sent their hosts in, gaining early successes when Ben Sudell (5) and Johan de Silva (1) both fell to Sherrick Chavda (4-32).

Highgate skipper Jake Sharland was dismissed by Sharuban Kanthasamy for a duck and, when Nick Brunner gave Chavda a return catch – also without scoring – the home side were floundering at 26-4.

Ramanayake’s brisk knock of 33 began the Highgate recovery before he was bowled by Chavda, paving the way for a crucial half-century partnership between Brookes and Gourlay.

Gourlay dominated the stand of 64, striking six fours and two sixes as he reached 39 from 44 deliveries before becoming the first of four victims for Kibreeth Rameez (4-62).

Brookes departed soon afterwards for 36, but the Highgate tail wagged and last man Scott Thaxton blazed 22 from just 14 balls as he and Jack Peck (11 not out) added 30 for the final wicket, which went down at the end of the 55th over.

Ramanayake made an early breakthrough when Bessborough began their reply, bowling Ishan Shah for a duck, and Rishi Patel (4) soon followed in the same fashion.

Kushal Patel (28) and Jigar Shah (28) steadied the ship for the visitors, however, and they were handily placed at 72-3 when Gourlay pierced the latter’s defences.

Brookes (1-12) and Thaxton (1-10) then chipped in with a wicket apiece and Gourlay (3-24) maintained the pressure on Bessborough by removing Chavda (10) and Rameez (9).

Gihan Pallage (20) threatened to hold up Highgate’s progress towards victory, but Ramanayake (4-42) had him caught behind before Ed Foster (1-18) finished proceedings by bowling Kanthasamy (2) in the 42nd over.

Meanwhile, North London came agonisingly close to hauling themselves off the foot of the table as they lost to promotion-chasing Barnes by one wicket.

NL, who have won three of their last five games to strengthen their chances of escaping the drop, were put in to bat and acquitted themselves well as Hussain Shabbir hit 51 and Sam Bardon 48.

But the visitors fell away in the middle order, with Barnes bowler Alex Scott (5-49) recording a hat-trick before a knock of 21 from skipper Jack Atchinson, batting at No 9, enabled them to total 172 in the 48th over.

Bardon (4-52) and Zila Jennings (2-16) gave North London an excellent start with a flurry of wickets when the home side replied, but they were held up by Tom Harwood’s measured innings of 79.

Scott (31) offered support as Barnes inched towards their target, but Yasir Hashmi (3-30) captured both their wickets and appeared to have turned the contest back in his side’s favour.

However, with the scores level and 10 deliveries remaining, last man Richard Craig slammed a six to secure victory for Barnes and keep NL in bottom place.