North Middlesex and Hampstead are both frustrated as rain ruins match

Both teams were left to ponder what might have been as a Premier Division match which was heading towards an exciting climax was ruined by rain and abandoned.

Having been in a little trouble at 27-2 and then 161-7, Evan Flowers (62) and Sam Webber (70) helped third-placed North Midd to post 241 in their home clash against fourth-placed Hampstead – and the Crouch End club then had their visitors 84-4 after 18.2 overs.

While North Midd were arguably on top, eyeing a 13-point victory after batting first, Hampstead had a slightly better run-rate and were on course for a winning draw if not the win.

But, just 10 balls away from the 20 overs required to constitute a full match, the rain fell and forced the game to be called off, with both sides having to settle for a single point.

Home captain Tom Nicoll said: “Having been asked to bat first on a green, seaming wicket we did well to get to 241.

“Sam Webber and Evan Flowers again showed what class acts they are, with some tremendous shots. Our bowlers were again on the money, and we felt we were well placed to win when the rain came.”

The chairman of Hampstead’s playing committee, Nick Brown, said: “It was a disappointing end to what could have been a good game.

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“I think it’s fair to say that North Midd will feel that they were on top, but we chased down a similar score last week against Finchley after being in an almost identical position, so we weren’t without a chance of turning the game round.”

Hampstead won the toss and had no hesitation in inviting their hosts to bat on a greenish wicket, with heavy cloud cover. At 27-2 it seemed the right decision as Adam Holmes (2) edged behind off Jamie Gibson (3-50) and 15-year-old Joe Cracknell (11) was caught and bowled by visiting captain Steve Clark (3-38).

But the innings was slowly rebuilt with some meaningful partnerships. Will Vanderspar (25) and Flowers (62) added 49 before Vanderspar was caught in the covers, and Flowers was then joined by skipper Tom Nicoll (33) in a 44-run pairing. Having hit three huge sixes, Nicoll perished five balls before lunch, caught in the slips off a wide delivery from Gibson.

Hampstead bowled with renewed vigour after the resumption, Flowers having his off- stump cartwheeled by the ball of the day from Gibson – and when Joe Hewton (8) and Will Nicoll (0) both went cheaply, North Midd were precariously placed at 161-7.

But a 41-run eighth-wicket partnership between Connor Nurse(13) and the hard-hitting Australian all-rounder Webber, who blasted 70 from 59 balls, took the hosts past 200 - and Joel Hughes (3) and Ed Bird (1) then gave Webber some brief but vital support as the total was stretched to 241 before North Midd were dismissed after 57 overs.

Hampstead reached 34 without loss but then lost four wickets for 14 runs. Some impressive slip catching by Vanderspar claimed the scalps of Clark (7) and Jaahid Ali (2), both off the bowling of Hughes (3-48), and Jack Biddulph (27) was well caught in the gully by Nurse off Webber (1-15) while Gibson (7) was caught behind by Holmes. Ragheb Aga (30 not out) and Jonathan Dunne (8no) began to wrestle back the initiative, taking the score to 82-4.

After 18.2 overs, Hampstead were ahead of the run-rate and, had they faced another 10 balls, they may well have earned a winning draw – but rain ended the contest frustratingly early.

Brown added: “Steve [Clark] said it after last week’s game, that we are “finding ways to win” without firing on all cylinders.

“Saturday was much the same. We bowled well in patches but not perhaps for long enough and, whilst we caught a couple of decent catches, our fielding could also have been better - but we’ll continue to try to improve and hopefully availability will be better next week as we were a bit light this week, particularly with George [Adair] and Liam [Hughes] missing.

“I like North Midd a lot. In truth there is a lot to like. They have a great academy which is bringing through quality young players, they have a good playing facility, their hospitality is great, they have a terrific seam bowling attack and Will Vandespar has added quality to their batting line up, which was exactly where they needed to strengthen.

“At the moment they are maybe Ealing-lite, but their progression has been steep and I have no doubt that they are here to stay at or near the top of the league.”

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