North Middlesex captain praises team’s progress despite missing out on league title

North Middlesex captain Tom Nicoll. Pic: Paolo Minoli

North Middlesex captain Tom Nicoll. Pic: Paolo Minoli - Credit: Archant

Skipper Tom Nicoll has urged North Middlesex to build on their new-found maturity next season after the disappointment of missing out on a maiden league title.

North Midd’s incredible run of nine straight wins kept them in with a shot at the championship until the final day, when those hopes were washed away by a narrow defeat under Duckworth-Lewis rules.

With rain imminent, Shepherd’s Bush scored quickly to ensure they were just three ahead of the required run-rate when play was called off halfway through the chase.

Teddington’s victory, in another rain-shortened game at Stanmore, meant they would have beaten North Midd to the title anyway – but Nicoll was in a positive mood as he reflected on his side’s campaign.

“To win nine games in a row was exceptional and to win the Middlesex Twenty20 Cup as well, which is a competition we like to play, makes it a great year,” said Nicoll.

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“If you beat every other team in the league, you should be pushing for the title. We’ve really found ourselves this season and certain players have found their roles within the team, which is key.

“We didn’t have that in the first five or six weeks – batsmen and bowlers knowing what their job is and what their style is and others finding their voice in the changing-room. Let’s just hope we can continue it next year.

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“It’s just a matter of sorting ourselves out in the first half of the season, which has been holding us back the last two years. We need a better pre-season, we need to do something different and make sure we start well.

“Rob Fahrenheim’s come in this year and been a great find – he’s been very sturdy at no3 – but he’s a rarity because we don’t often get new players in. It’s usually players who come through from the colts.

“Look at that team – it’s North Midd born and bred and that’s the same throughout the club. It’s something we’re very proud of and I think that’s what’s given us a lot of success.”

Nicoll lost the toss at Bromyard Avenue and his side were put in to bat, but opening pair Will Vanderspar and Adam Holmes climbed into the Bush bowling with a partnership of 180.

North Midd continued to amass runs after the departure of Holmes (50), with Vanderspar going on to reach 119 – his first century of the season – and Fahrenheim (14) and Evan Flowers (41) both scoring briskly.

However, wickets then fell at a regular rate to Will Speer (3-63) and Sam Howell (2-50) and it needed a quickfire unbeaten 22 from Joel Hughes to lift the visitors to 304-9 from their 50 overs.

Bush, who needed victory to remain in the Premier Division, set about the pursuit with gusto as captain Jack Brydon and Robbie Watts put on 69 for the first wicket.

Connor Nurse (2-43) made the breakthrough, drawing Brydon (42) down the wicket to give Holmes a stumping, and followed that up by bowling Alex Blofield for 12.

But, with the drizzle starting to become heavier, Watts (54 not out) and Ian Massey (15no), kept up the scoring rate and nudged Bush into what proved to be a winning position at 137-2 from 25 overs.

“I would have bowled, definitely,” Nicoll admitted. “With Duckworth-Lewis, the team batting second is in control. We had 300 on the board yet they’ve ended up winning.

“It’s a flat wicket and a good outfield, so 300 was probably just above par, really, and all credit to them. We gave it a go to try and stay on, but it was chucking it down and that’s the way it is.”

Meanwhile, North Middlesex’s second XI did manage to clinch the championship, beating Ealing by nine wickets in their final game to see off the challenge of Richmond.

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