Middlesex County League: Askew’s seeing the fruits of North London revival

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

North London captain Mark Askew believes that the club are finally seeing the evidence of a revival which could take them back to Division Two this summer.

Jonathan Scantlebury took eight wickets on Saturday as NL skittled Indian Gymkhana for 116, and Askew maintained his impressive form with a new bat, notching an unbeaten 52 to guide his side to victory.

That left NL six points off the top of Division Three. And, two years, after being relegated to the third tier of the Middlesex County League, the skipper feels that his side are ready for promotion.

“We were hanging on in Division Two for a while and were eventually relegated, but we’ve undergone a transitional period since then and I think we’re seeing the fruits of that now,” said Askew.

“We got a new coach [Aussie Peter Monar] last summer, and he’s really changed the culture of the club. I think it’s taken longer than he would have liked, but we’ve certainly seen a big improvement in a number of areas.

“The quality of the fielding has improved in all three teams, and there’s a better attitude around the place. There’s a bigger emphasis on individual responsibility.

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“We’ve got guys staying on after training, and other guys coming down on other nights to get the bowling machine out.

“There are no closed shops either – there’s movement between the first team, second team and third team.

“Jon Scantlebury is a good example of that. He’s played for the second team quite a bit, but he’s been playing really well in the first team and he knows that he’s on a level playing field now.”

Scantlebury was the star on Saturday as NL recorded their third win of the season, in a match which was shortened to 72 overs due to the rain.

Askew won the toss in damp conditions and inserted Indian Gymkhana, who were looking strong at drinks, having reached 80-3 after 20 overs.

However, Scantlebury got the breakthrough with the first ball after the restart, having Atif Mughal (29) stumped, and when 15-year-old off-spinner Ted Greally had Aditya Archiya (35) caught by Ian Johns, it triggered a collapse.

Scantlebury took another five wickets, finishing with 8-47 as Gymkhana were skittled for 116 after 35.3 overs.

With 32 overs to reply, Askew sent Ben Wakeford (13) out as a pinch hitter – a tactic which “worked for one over”. When the makeshift opener and Johns (0) departed early, NL were 12-2.

However, the unbroken third-wicket partnership of Askew (52 not out) and Richard Hall (48no) put on over 100 runs, securing victory after 24.2 overs.

“I’ve been pleased with my batting recently,” said Askew. “I actually bought a new bat a couple of weeks ago, just before the match against Uxbridge.

“I got 79 not out in that game and then 52 not out at the weekend, so it’s given me a bit of confidence.”

The skipper believes that Saturday’s victory will have a similar effect.

“It was a really important result, I think it’s the turning point of our season to be honest,” he said.

“This will give us a lot of confidence and to win when three of the other games were abandoned, it’s put us right back into the mix.

“We’ve been playing good cricket and we don’t feel we’ve played anyone who’s better than us, but we’ve had rotten luck with injuries – we’ve been cursed with bad luck.

“Ian Johns scored 100 in our first match and 40 in our second, and then he broke a finger so he missed quite a few games.

“Matt Hickman’s a new player who was looking good, but he broke his finger in the last pre-season friendly.

“Tom Noutch has been out with a hamstring injury, James Kee has had a calf strain and Byron Hackshall missed the last game with a back injury – he’s a big player for us so I was even more pleased to win without him.

“We feel we’re going to be stronger in the second half of the season when all our injured players are back.

“Pete, our coach, will be eligible to play in a couple of weeks too, and he’s a good cricketer.

“We’re looking at the top of the league, and that’s where we want to be.”

In Division Two, HORNSEY were left to rue a controversial umpiring decision as Harrow escaped a seemingly inevitable defeat – and stole the winning draw at the death.

Having posted 156, Hornsey had 20 overs to take Harrow’s last three wickets, but only got two, as their visitors staggered to 134-9 – just three runs past the target for the four points.

Harrow’s hero was their No7 batsman, Darren Crook, who notched an unbeaten 57 – having survived a seemingly obvious dismissal earlier in his innings.

With 15 runs to his name, Crook appeared to nick a Martin Tucker delivery down the leg-side and into the waiting golves of wicketkeeper Alex Scrini – only for the umpire to hand him a stay of execution, and the opportunity to turn the match on its head.

“He knew he was out,” said Hornsey captain Chetan Patel. “He was actually walking away from the crease – then he realised the umpire hadn’t given it.

“That was frustrating but, at the same time, you’ve got to back yourself to get three wickets in 20 overs, and we didn’t do it.”

Earlier in the day, Patel had lost the toss and been inserted on a turgid pitch.

With runs proving hard to come by, the hosts lost James Bull (4) early, but Anthony Murphy came in at No3 and made a half century, taking Hornsey to 55-1 alongside Deepesh Makwana (19).

Makwana’s dismissal started a wobble as Sam Hickingbotham (0) and Patel (4) quickly followed, and when Murphy (50) succumbed, the home side were 88-5.

Murphy was replaced by Tucker, who notched an unbeaten 55, but he ran out of partners after 54.4 overs, as Hornsey were all out for 156.

Fortunately, Bhasker Patel picked up where he had left off the previous weekend, following his nine-wicket haul against Highgate with another six wickets.

The 20-year-old spinner recorded figures of 6-63, with able support from Tucker (3-48) to put Harrow in all sorts of trouble at 58-7 with 20 overs remaining.

The hosts thought they had got another breakthrough, but Crook survived the appeals and went on to add another 42 runs, taking Harrow past the 131 needed for the winning draw just before their allotted 46 overs ran out.

Meanwhile, HIGHGATE were denied the chance to chase a much needed first victory of the season after surprising high-flying Brentham on Saturday.

Spinner Syed Karrar took five wickets as the hosts were dismissed for just 149, but then the heavens opened and the match was abandoned before Highgate could reply.

Skipper Ed Binns had won the toss and asked the hosts to bat first and two early wickets for Jared Treadway set the tone for the innings.

But it was change bowlers Karrar and Hammad Hassan who really made the difference, Karrar wheeling away for 18 overs to end with fine figures of 5-46, while Hassan claimed 3-43 from 12.4 overs.

Despite the abandonment, the single point Highgate received doubled their tally for the season, but having had two points deducted last month they are officially now on zero and 11 points adrift of eighth-placed Enfield.

Elsewhere, NORTH MIDDLESEX could not find the two wickets they needed to force victory against Acton as their winless run was extended to seven games at a rainy Park Road on Saturday.

That was despite a gutsy 60 from wicketkeeper Joe Hewton in a North Mid total of 183-7 declared that looked to be a platform for victory.

Skipper Evan Flowers also hit 31 to take him past the 400-mark for the season, but rain was already playing a part and restricting Acton’s reply.

Quick wickets were needed and Darren Eckford (2-35) and Dexter Thomas (3-34) obliged to reduce the visitors to 77-5, but they rallied and took home the four points.