North Middlesex are soaring in top flight after Bird’s six-wicket haul

North Middlesex are soaring in second place in the top flight of the Middlesex County Cricket League after Ed Bird’s six-wicket haul against Southgate helped to maintain their perfect record.

Sam Webber hit 62 off 46 balls while Will Nicoll fell one run short of a half-century as North Midd posted 211-7 off 38 overs in a rain-affected match.

That reduced innings meant Southgate were set 229 to win and, with Bird conceding 25 off his first two overs, the visitors were 144-3 with 13 overs left. But Webber and Nicoll destroyed their momentum and Bird returned with a venom, taking the final six wickets as the visitors were bowled out for 196.

North Midd were asked to bat but the heavens opened after 6.2 overs, stopping play for a couple of hours, and the match was reduced to 38 overs-a-side.

Openers Atif Zaffar and Nicoll reached 73 without loss, but Zaffar (33) was then caught by Southgate skipper Faisal Mir off David Woffinden, and Nicoll fell on 49 as he was bowled by one that kept low, while Evan Flowers came and went as Southgate’s pairing of Woffinden (2-35) and Lasith Lakshan (3-32) put the brakes on.

The defining partnership of the innings came when overseas player Webber joined Will Vanderspar at the crease, and they put on a quickfire 72, including a very productive and well-timed powerplay.

A flurry of late wickets fell in the quest for quick runs, including a run-out off the last ball, as the hosts finished on 211-9.

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The Duckworth Lewis-adjusted total was 228, with Southgate needing 229 to win – 11 runs fewer than it would have been without the needless late run-out.

Southgate’s openers Lakshan and Michael Stevens reached 24 but North Midd’s stand-in skipper Joel Hughes (1-33) removed Lakshan (4) as he heaved a swinging delivery to Zaffar, and Webber

(2-28) bowled Stevens (21) before pinning Phil Dunnett in front to leave Southgate reeling at 37-3.

That brought Tom Edrich (61) and Ayush Sahota together in a fourth-wicket stand of 107, aided by the initially wayward Bird, who had an expensive first two overs.

While Southgate were always slightly behind the run-rate, Edrich and Sahota got the visitors into a good position at 144-3, needing 85 off 13 overs to win.

Edrich and Sahota took the powerplay in the 23rd over and, again, it was a defining moment.

Although he didn’t take a wicket, Webber and the spin of Will Nicoll (1-35) sucked all the momentum out of the innings, with Nicoll finally breaking the stand with a juggled catch behind the wicket to remove Sahota (48) and leave the visitors 144-4.

Bird returned in the 27th over and put his first spell behind him, claiming the key scalp of Edrich (61) as he edged one behind and then running through the lower order, with good catches taken by Hughes, Zaffar and Joe Hewton as Southgate were bowled out in the final over, falling 32 runs short.

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