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Hughes secures dramatic victory as North Middlesex complete the double over Hampstead

PUBLISHED: 15:08 11 July 2016 | UPDATED: 15:08 11 July 2016

North Middlesex captain Tom Nicoll (centre) is congratulated by his team-mates after removing Hampstead's Jonathan Dunne and claiming his fifth wicket. Pic: Paolo Minoli

North Middlesex captain Tom Nicoll (centre) is congratulated by his team-mates after removing Hampstead's Jonathan Dunne and claiming his fifth wicket. Pic: Paolo Minoli

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Joel Hughes hit a winning four in the final over as North Middlesex completed the double over Hampstead and moved 17 points clear of their hosts and the relegation zone in the Premier Division of the Middlesex County Cricket League.

Hampstead skipper Steve Clark ponders his side's latest defeat. Pic: Paolo MinoliHampstead skipper Steve Clark ponders his side's latest defeat. Pic: Paolo Minoli

George Adair hit 77 as reigning champions Hampstead declared on 266-9 at their Lymington Road home, despite the efforts of visiting captain Tom Nicoll, who took five wickets.

But North Midd proved up to the task and Adam Holmes, Joe Cracknell and Rob Fahrenheim all passed 50 to set up a thrilling finish, with the Crouch End outfit eventually reaching the winning target with two balls to spare.

“This was an absolute belter of a game,” said Nicoll. “It was a good pitch to bat on but chasing that total was not easy by any means.

“Adam and Joe gave us a great platform with an opening partnership of over 100, and then Rob bludgeoned the ball all round the ground.

Hampstead's George Adair, who notched 77 off 89 balls, hits a six down the leg side. Pic: Paolo MinoliHampstead's George Adair, who notched 77 off 89 balls, hits a six down the leg side. Pic: Paolo Minoli

“We needed to get the last 50 at a run a ball. A flurry of wickets made it a different game, with Hampstead probably favourites.

“It got very tense as we needed 28 off the last four overs, 16 off the last two and eight off the last, but Joel conjured up a huge hit to win it.”

Hampstead won the Premier Division for the second time last summer but have only won two of their 10 fixtures so far this year and remain inside the relegation zone.

Chairman Nick Brown said: “It’s difficult to explain why it is going wrong. Earlier in the season we struggled for runs. Now we are struggling for control with the ball.

North Middlesex's Joe Cracknell (left) celebrates reaching 50 with his opening partner Adam Holmes, who struck 75. Pic: Paolo MinoliNorth Middlesex's Joe Cracknell (left) celebrates reaching 50 with his opening partner Adam Holmes, who struck 75. Pic: Paolo Minoli

“We’re not helped by chronic availability problems, but that’s no excuse. We have a big squad of players and they all need to start contributing, otherwise we are going to run out of games.

“The time for laughing and joking has long gone. This is serious and this change needs to start in the nets, then we need to take that into the next game at Shepherd’s Bush.”

Hampstead captain Steve Clark elected to bat first and his side made a good start. Adair hit 77 off 89 balls with support from Sam Evison (17) and Henry Collier (25) to take the hosts to 122-2 – and after his dismissal, Clark (38) and Archie Fellowes (32) put on another 71 together.

They then lost four wickets for just 15 runs – three of them captured by Nicoll (5-88) – but Jonathan Dunne (17) and Chris Beaumont-Dark (28 not out) took Hampstead to a declaration at 266-9 after 64 overs.

That was more than North Midd had managed in the league all season – but their top order finally fired.

Adam Holmes (75) and Joe Cracknell (53) shared a century opening stand, and Holmes and Rob Fahrenheim then took the visitors to 211-1, with the latter striking 69 off 74 balls.

Both then departed and North Midd lost four wickets for 16 runs, with Will Roberts (4-56) doing much of the damage and leaving the visitors 237-6 with the overs running out.

However, Connor Nurse hit an unbeaten 15 off 20 balls and, although Will Nicoll (7) was caught, Hughes came to the crease in a tense climax and hit five crucial runs off his two deliveries – the second a four that secured a dramatic away win.

North Middlesex also beat Southgate on Sunday to reach the semi-finals of the Middlesex Twenty20 Cup for the third year in a row. They chased down 104 in a little more than 10 overs to secure a seven-wicket victory and book a clash with Stanmore in the last four.

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