Middlesex County League: All to play for in promotion battle as NL slip up

All the weekend’s action from the Middlesex County League as we go around the grounds with North London, Hornsey, North Middlesex and Highgate

The strongly-contested promotion battle in Division Three became even closer on Saturday as South Hampstead’s victory over North London left six teams fighting for one place.

NL and SH started the weekend in second and seventh place respectively – but Saturday’s upset tightened up an already congested division.

While Wembley are 27 points clear at the top, the second promotion spot is well and truly up for grabs, with just six points separating the next six teams.

“We did everything right in our preparation for the game, but we did not apply ourselves with the bat and dropped too many catches, despite giving it our all in the field,” said North London captain Mark Askew.

“It’s great to still be where we are after results have gone against us, and we feel we could do something special this season.

“It’s the tightest league we’ve ever played in – everyone is beating everyone.

Most Read

“We’re playing Wembley this weekend, who are top of the league, but we’re pretty relaxed about it. It’s our cricket week at the club so all the team have been playing.

“We’ll just play our game. If we win, even Wembley could start to have collywobbles.”

Askew lost the toss on his home ground at Crouch End and was put into bat by South Hampstead captain Paul Atherley on a favourable bowling wicket.

Yet Askew’s openers started brightly, Ian Johns and Matthew Hoyle getting the innings off to a flying start, knocking boundaries aplenty and seemingly making a mockery of Atherley’s decision at the toss.

The hosts made it to 50 unscathed but, soon after, Hoyle (27) was trapped lbw by Kirk Drummond (4-49), the first of the paceman’s four scalps.

A few minutes later, Johns (37) was bowled by Nish

Patel (5-24), whose medium pace began to cause havoc.

Suddenly, 70-2 became 76-5, with Patel picking up four wickets in rapid succession by dismissing Frankie Fraser (6), Byron Hackshall (0) and Askew (5).

Richard Hall strode out looking to repair the damage, and along with Jack Aitchison he succeeded in stemming the flow of wickets, the duo playing sensibly while gradually edging the total up to a more respectable level.

Unfortunately, Aitchison fell for a respectable 28 to Karthik Jagannathan (1-27) with the score on 125, which began another mini-collapse as Ted Greally was clean bowled by Drummond for one.

Hall ploughed on with his innings, adding another 12 runs, but his new partner Tom Wakeford was unable to stick around and was quickly bowled by Drummond for two.

Bill Ward and Jonathan Scantlebury, NL’s tail-enders, got five and nine runs respectively towards the end, ably assisting Hall in an innings where every extra run was a bonus.

However, Drummond and Patel got the final two wickets of the innings, finishing with nine between them, leaving Hall unbeaten on 34 as the hosts were skittled for 161 after 45.5 overs.

South Hampstead also started their chase well, Zeeshan Sialvi taking the charge to the NL bowling attack.

However, Jagannathan (6) was caught by Ward off the bowling of Scantlebury with the score on 32 – a valuable scalp.

Alex Ranger and Sialvi put on 38 runs together before Ranger (31) fell to Tom Wakeford (2-33), with Johns taking the catch.

SH then had a middle-

order collapse of their own, Sialvi being run out for 41 with the score on 91-3 – and that quickly became 93-6 as NL dismissed Sam Bardon (0), James Williams (9) and Patel (1) in quick succession to claw themselves back into the match.

However, the lower middle-order of skipper Atherley and Majid Akram both scored valuable runs.

And, although Atherley (19) fell to a run-out and Scantlebury (2-51) bowled Akram (18), that was just enough to take the game away from a valiant North London.

Finally Alvin Kallicherran, who was unbeaten on 30 at the end of the match, hit the winning runs to secure victory by two wickets, and end a low-scoring but pulsating match.

In Division Two, Hornsey moved a step nearer to realising their dream of a second successive promotion as Joel Gregory took five wickets in a 75-run win over Acton.

Electing to bat, hosts Hornsey reached 98-3 after losing their openers, Deepesh Makwana (24) and James Bull (10), and No3

Anthony Murphy, who top scored with 41.

That became 126-6 as the middle order failed to stick around, but Jack Goldberg (28) and Martin Tucker (30) showed form with the bat, before the home side were skittled for 187 after 52.4 overs.

That proved to be plenty as Hornsey’s bowlers got to work after lunch, with Gregory recording figures of 5-32 and spinner Bhasker Patel taking 4-13.

Tucker (1-38) also chipped in as Hornsey’s sixth victory of the campaign took them into second place.

Meanwhile, North Middlesex’s hopes of becoming major players in the promotion race were dealt a heavy blow as they took just one point from their clash with Harrow.

Jaron Semper took a five-for, recording figures of 5-47, while Dexter Thomas took 2-37, but Harrow were still able to declare on a healthy 228-9 after 52 overs, with overseas player Darius D’Souza top-scoring with 91.

In reply, North Mid never got going as their openers, Adam Holmes (1) and Alex Hill (0) went cheaply. Joe Hewton (79 not out) made a fist of it, but he was the only home batsman to pass 20.

With little hope of victory, the hosts focused on avoiding defeat, finishing on 147-7 after 49 overs to earn a

losing draw.

Elsewhere, Nasirul Alam struck a ton as Highgate took the lion’s share of the points from their basement battle with relegation rivals Enfield.

Alam notched 105, while Dave Benton scored 50, as the league’s bottom side posted 265 – and that proved to be enough for the winning draw as Enfield finished on 182-7 at a slower rate.

Inserted into bat, the hosts lost Nicholas Brunner for 17, and looked to be in trouble as Jake Sharland (3) and Hammad Hassan (6) rapidly followed.

However, a profitable partnership between No5 Benton and Alam turned the tide, with Benton making 50 before being caught.

Gourlay was trapped lbw for a duck, but opener Alam passed his century before being caught on 105.

The tail end also added useful runs and, although Jared Treadway went for a duck and Syed Karrar was caught on three, Christopher Gallagher (21) and Sam Joseph (31) took the score past 250 before the home side were skittled after 49 overs.

After tea, it was Gallagher who led the way with the ball, recording figures of 3-17 with support from Treadway (2-38) and Karrar (2-38) to secure the four points, which leaves Highgate four points from safety.