Skipper targets points record after Highgate beat North London to seal promotion
Highgate captain Jake Sharland wants his side to break the Middlesex County League points record after they clinched promotion by beating neighbours North London.
Sharland’s team, who are undefeated in Division Three all season, sealed promotion with three games to spare by completing a 77-run victory over their local rivals on Saturday.
Now the jubilant skipper is aiming to extend that unbeaten record to the end of the season, secure the title and become the first Middlesex side to hit the 150-point mark by winning their last three fixtures.
Teddington hold the record points total under the present league format, having racked up 142 en route to winning the Premier Division crown in 2002.
“I want us to stay unbeaten, go up as champions and I’m looking forward to seeing if we can get the highest points tally as well,” said Sharland.
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“We’ve had two years in a row finishing third and been unlucky to miss out – so it was a great feeling when North London’s 10th wicket went down. It’s something special to do it against the team from next door.
“I think the key has probably been the atmosphere we’ve got at the club – it’s like a real family. We’re not just team-mates, we’re good friends as well.
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“I want to give some more of the younger guys a go over the next few weeks – this is the perfect opportunity for them to test themselves. It’ll be good to go out there and just enjoy the cricket without any pressure.”
Sharland, now in his third season as captain of the Shepherd’s Cot team, paid tribute to his bowlers for their impressive track record in dismissing the opposition throughout the campaign.
Veteran all-rounder Craig Gourlay has led the way with 39 wickets so far, backed up strongly by overseas signing Hashen Ramanayake (29) and Ed Foster (27).
“In previous years we relied on Craig quite a lot,” added Sharland. “This season we’ve had five or six bowlers every week and our bowling unit has been exceptional. We’ve taken 10 wickets in almost every match.
“Craig has been a big part of it as well – he led the team five or six times while I was out injured and he’s been excellent. And our overseas player has made a really big impact.
“So have some of the younger players like Will Brookes, who’s only turned 18 this season, and Ed Foster deserves a special mention in his first full season – he’s made a massive impression. He’s been very steady and he’s our go-to bowler when we need a wicket.”
And Sharland is optimistic that Highgate’s current crop of players can be competitive when they return to Division Two next season, for the first time since 2011.
“The average age of the team now is 25 or 26, so we should be a force to be reckoned with for a few years to come,” he said. “With the group we’ve got here we’ll be able to hold our own, if not more.
“As long as we can keep them in the division above and bring in one or two to strengthen, I see no reason why we shouldn’t be able to stay there for a long time.”
Home skipper Jack Atchinson won the toss and sent Highgate in, with Zila Jennings (2-58) gaining an early success when he dismissed Ben Sudell (9) at 24-1.
But Highgate quickly regained control as Sharland and Will Bowley put together a partnership of 130, with the latter blazing eight fours and two sixes as he rattled up 85 from just 59 balls.
Jennings returned to pierce Bowley’s defences and thwart his hopes of a century – and the visitors then lost Ramanayake without further addition to the total as he was bowled by Yasir Hashmi (1-51).
But Nick Brunner joined Sharland at the crease and kept the scoreboard ticking over as the skipper passed his half-century before being run out for 63.
Brunner raced to a half-century of his own, hitting seven fours and two sixes as he finished on 57 not out, aided by Brookes (9) and enabling Highgate to declare at 240-5 after 50 overs.
NL made a solid start to their pursuit of the target – but they were unable to build significant partnerships and several batsmen made starts without going on to dominate.
Ralph Pedersen was the first to depart, caught by Gourlay off Foster for 15, while fellow opener Ibrar Tariq reached 36 off 32 balls before he fell to Brookes (1-9).
Gourlay inflicted further damage on North London as he removed Sam Bardon (13) and then accounted for Alan O’Shea (9) and Hashmi (0) in successive deliveries.
Hussain Shabbir (13) and Tom Wakeford (19) did their best to mount a recovery, but both fell victim to Foster and NL’s fading hopes rested with their captain.
Atchinson remained unbeaten on 38, but wickets continued to fall at the other end and Rosh Tennakoon (1) and Ted Greally (0) both departed before Ramanayake bowled Jennings (0) to spark the start of Highgate celebrations.