North Middlesex maintain perfect start despite ‘sub-par performance’

North Middlesex captain Tom Nicoll admits his side were not at their best in Saturday’s three-wicket victory at Finchley, but he says there is a growing sense of confidence as the club continued their perfect start to the season in the Premier Division of the Middlesex County Cricket League.

Chasing 210 for victory, North Midd were in trouble at 118-6 after 32 of their allotted 50 overs, having also lost Nicoll to injury - but an 83-run partnership between Joe Hewton (49 not out) and Adam Holmes (32) saved the day as the visitors reached 210-7 in the penultimate over.

“Overall this was a sub-par performance from us - at times we were right up against it,” said Nicoll. “Still, we ended up with the 10 points, which is testament to our strength in depth and a tangible and building sense of confidence in the dressing room.”

Finchley elected to bat and their opening pair reached 52 without loss – a stand that was broken as George Charlton (12) slipped at the non-striker’s end, leaving his partner Fred Daeche-Marshall (34) stranded halfway down the wicket attempting a third run. Ed Bird threw waywardly to Holmes behind the stumps, but the diminutive wicketkeeper gathered smartly and completed the run-out.

The hosts ticked along at four an over without any real drama, gaining some luck along the way as a number of edges narrowly evaded fielders and went to the boundary, and Jake Milton (47) and Majed Ali (29) shared another half-century partnership, taking Finchley to 138-2.

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But Nicoll’s googly induced a leading edge from Milton (47) and the skipper took an easy return catch to spark a middle-order collapse, taking two more wickets to finish with 3-34 – a spell which was curtailed by injury as the captain took his cap from the umpire after 9.4 overs.

North Midd also lost Bird’s services after a second beamer saw him banned from the attack, having dismissed Ali, but when Will Nicoll (2-16) bowled Muhammad Arshad (12), Finchley were 174-7.

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A productive last few overs took them over 200 but Sam Webber (2-28) and Joel Hughes (1-36) mopped up the tail, and the home side’s score looked 20 or 30 runs below par.

North Midd lost an early wicket as Atif Zafar saw his off stump knocked out by the lively Frahan Butt (1-40) but Will Nicoll (8) and Will Vanderspar (42) began to build a platform.

Wickets then fell regularly though as Will Nicoll was followed back to the pavilion by Evan Flowers (12), and Tom Nicoll made 18 before retiring injured again, while Vanderspar departed and Webber (3) and Liam O’Driscoll (12) were unable to stick around.

That left North Midd up against it at 118-6 – having also lost Tom Nicoll – in the 32nd over. But Hewton and Holmes staged a rescue act, effortlessly nudging, stroking and when necessary attacking in a stand of 83 at virtually a run a ball.

Hewton was in particularly good form, regularly advancing down the wicket to the opening bowlers and disdainfully dispatching them to the boundary.

Holmes holed out in the 48th over but Hughes (7no) came to the crease and finished the job with a four and a three.

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