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Week 8 – North Midd stay top of Prem; 2s, 3s win; 4s, 5s lose

Week 8 – North Midd stay top of Prem; 2s, 3s win; 4s, 5s lose

By Richard Nicoll
2 July
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Brilliant 93 from Joe Cracknell supported by 80 from Flowers sets up winning draw at Teddington

Brilliant 93 from Joe Cracknell supported by 80 from Flowers
Mark Williams

A scorching day and mixed results for Midd teams. Here are the match reports for 29 June -

North Midd 1st XI vs Teddington (Away)
North Midd 289 all out from 59.1 overs
Teddington 231-8 from 60 overs
North Midd winning draw 5 points

On a relentlessly hot, shimmering sunny day with little wind, the deer who populate the park hunting for, and staying resolutely in the shade, Joel Hughes won the toss and elected to bat. He will have been mindful that the pitch was dry and firm, but there was more grass on it (slightly green) than usual, and that batting is usually easier later in the day on this magnificent ground in the middle of the expansive and thousand-shades-of-green Bushy Park. However, the pressure to get a score on the board and field in the cooler evening session proved irresistible. Surviving the opening overs in these conditions was going to be critical, and Joe Cracknell began as he meant to continue with a delightful cover drive for four from the second ball of the match and a cheeky quick single from the next. Cambridge Blue and captain Pollock then found the perfect initially straight late away swinger to force Luke Hollman into a defensive prod, only to be well held at 2nd slip by Oxford Blue and captain Escott first ball (5-1, 0). This appeared to matter not one jot to Cracknell and Evan Flowers; playing the good balls with due decorum, stealing quick singles at every turn and feasting on anything loose, the score reached 57 for 1 off just 9 overs against a new ball attack that was always threatening. The former driving off both front and back foot deliciously confidently, and the latter displaying an early concentration, determination and fluency not often seen: a superb square back foot cover-drive second ball and a ferocious pull wide of mid-on were early highlights. The score moved remorselessly on all morning: 44 balls for the first fifty partnership, 61 balls for the second and 63 balls for the third bear testimony to the pair’s total domination of the attack. There were very few false shots, despite the introduction of off-spinner Munday who bowled a long accurate spell in the second half of the morning. The running between the wickets was universally excellent, putting consistent pressure on the fielding side, and both players reached fine fifties in 44 and 80 balls respectively. Cracknell was fast approaching a richly-deserved century when, to everyone’s surprise, he missed a full faster ball from Munday to be lbw on the stroke of lunch (172-2, 93) from 31.5 overs. Cracknell’s rich vein of form had continued, and his confidence fluency and technical mastery were highly impressive; Flowers did not fail by comparison and the morning’s batting had been exemplary and of the highest class against a strong side (not often I’ll ever say that!). Their principal tormentor gone, Teddington returned to the field after lunch determined to do better, and the evergreen James Keightley, comfortably the best of the seamers, and Munday bowled 14 tight overs in tandem, conceding just 53 runs. This was partially because James Parslow wasn’t as confident at running the short singles, and suddenly the disruptive rotation of the strike was not being achieved. Flowers faced just 12 balls of the first seven overs after lunch before Keightley fired a quicker delivery past his defensive shot to have him lbw (205-3, 80): an innings of the highest class. Tom Nicoll was bowled in Keightley’s next over (207-4, 1), but Parslow and Alex MacQueen added 34 in 62 balls to reassert the momentum before the latter was bowled by leg-spinner David Keightley (241-5, 26), and the former was caught behind off Hopkins in the next over (241-6, 25), and the same bowler castled Will Nicoll (248-7, 1) in his next over. 76-5 in 21 overs since lunch represented a major fightback by determined hosts. Hughes and Alex Hill then added a sprightly 37 in 30 balls, running excellently for two old men, to turn the initiative back to the visitors. A declaration at 60 overs loomed and first Hill (285-8, 14), then Hughes (289-9, 30), then Hugh Teesdale (289 all out, 1) died in the cause. Because of the majesty of the morning’s batting, this represented a slight disappointment to the visitors who might have aimed to be declaring at 325 off 55 overs, but one must acknowledge the brave recovery of the hosts: James Keightley (13-1-57-2) and Munday (13.1-0-51-3) stood out, and there is no doubt that the ‘Midd’ would have bought their total at the start.
Hughes began with an immaculate maiden, and yet again the ‘Midd’ captured an early wicket when, in his first over, Ed Bird induced skipper and consistently high scoring Aussie Nick Pryde to edge behind (1-1, 0). Escott was soon elegantly into his stride and found a willing partner in Twiney, running as successfully as the visitors had done. Thereafter, Bird and Teesdale both struggled for consistency, and had it not been for the ever-reliable Hughes, North Middlesex may have lost control. They had added 87 in 121 balls either side of tea (70-1 from 17 overs) when he had Twiney driving into Cracknell’s breadbasket at extra-cover (88-2, 43) after a fluent innings. Keeper Trevor-Jones was immediately assertive, and Escott continued with his serene dominance, slowed only by the accuracy of MacQueen. The pair added 53 in 88 balls when he latter drove a full ball from Hollman into his foot and Hill executed a smart stumping before the batsman realised the danger (141-3, 79); it had been the third classy innings of the day, and it was his first error; if allowed to continue he had the experience and ability to win the game for the hosts, so this was a crucial dismissal and greatly lifted the morale of the fielding side. Talented Salopian and Oxford Blue Ben Williams was immediately into his stride and looked dangerous before he rather limply skied a catch to square leg (188-4, 24). Tom Nicoll had Wade smartly caught at slip (201-5, 5) and shortly after reaching his fifty from 78 balls, Trevor-Jones was lbw to Holman heaving to leg (222-6, 53) and Pollock was run out by Tom Nicoll throwing the ball to the keeper’s end (223-7, 5). The block was now on and was largely successful except that MacQueen had Hopkins lbw (231-8, 6); the rest was silence, with James Keightley undefeated on 11. Hughes bowled a heroic 15-4-31-1 in the heat: I have a memory of him trudging purposefully back to his mark, determined to deliver another miserly delivery. He was principally responsible for ensuring that Teddington did not get anywhere near their target. Neither leg-spinner was at their best, but both took a couple of wickets, and MacQueen bowled very steadily (17-3-59-1) if not incisively this time.
It was a fair result and this is a difficult ground to bowl a side out, when chasing, if they are not close to the target. North Middlesex gained 5 valuable points and comfortably passed the stern examination promised last week against a talented side, to remain on top of the table. Mark Williams

North Midd 2nd XI vs Osterley (Home)
North Midd 294-7 dec 50 overs
Osterley 66-10 22.4 overs
North Midd win by many runs

The weather was set glorious at 32° this Saturday for what was regrettably a bottom of the table clash between the middies and Osterley. With the sunshine came Will Chambers as stand in skipper, and though the relationship between our esteemed skipper and any hint of sunray is usually fairly treacherous, today the two combined marvellously in the middies favour. The day begun with the notion that we would bowl first, Chambo, perhaps noticing the very audible groans, opted to lose the toss and we were inserted on a very flat one. He and Nurse would open the batting and get us off to a fluent start, both driving handsomely down the ground in the second over. Unfortunately Chambo would leave the crease in the third over, bails divorced from stumps. Chad (Chid) would replace Chambo, and would too combine with Nurseshark to keep the scoreboard violently ticking. 41-1 off 5. Unfortunately Chad, not used to such sweltering climate, would depart the crease in a similar fashion to Chambo, stumps awry. King Zulfiquar Azom, (Jimmy Neesham enthusiast) would join Nurse and revive a partnership that struck fear into every and any u13 bowling attack in the year of 2008. The two milked the Osterley medium pacers effortlessly, and these singles as well as the left hand right hand combination particularly frustrated the Osterley skipper (and the north midd boys who's tanning schedules had been interrupted by calls for sightscreen duty). The introduction of the off spinner would first seen Con reach his 50, a characteristically classy knock from a proper batsman in a team inhabited by many cowboys. Zulfi at the other end made light work of the offspinners first over, picking up 2 fours. Unfortunately the finger spinner's next over would prompt Zulf's exit, he left contributing 17. Max Harris (Jimmy Neesham unenthusiast) was the new man, entering with a characteristically violent manifesto. Though a week in Amsterdam residually affecting his physiology, Harris was soon into his stride, hitting 2 bombs in his first 7 balls. Not content with those 2, he hit 2 bigger straighter ones. Its worth noting that the bombs were punctuated by dot balls that were arguably cheered more than the 6's by the watching middie teammates. 2 more 6's saw Max bring up his 50 and go past Nurse, who had been grafting 20 odd overs at this point. Harris' fun would soon to be ended by the opposition umpire , as he was adjudged pec before wicket when attempting to sweep. Barrow was the next man in, and together he and Con would move the score along nicely together. By now the sun was beating down and the Osterley fielders were fairly desolate, made worse by the incessant manoeuvring of the field by Nurse and now Barrow. They batted together 13 overs to take NMCC past 200. The partnership eventually ended when Barrow was the third middie who had his stumps disturbed. Nurse, now on 96, unfortunately became the 4th, a tired shot capping off a fantastic innings in Mediterranean heat. At 42 overs Howeld joined Yorke Starkey at the crease, aiming for 300. They cowboyed their way almost there, CYS 27, Howeld 34* and 16 year old Louis Haywood 14* (that would include a lovely little bomb). 292-7 off 50 and Chambers called in the troops, to give Osterley a go at victory in equal temporal conditions. It would turn out that Osterley didn't fancy their 50 overs to chase, in fact they settled at just over 20, despite their fairly innocuous first 4 overs (16-0). Lowe would break the serenity, trapping the 15 year old Middlesex opener in front of the stumps to give us our first. Next Alex Smith was to find the edge of their number Three, snaffled by Mayo, who had donned the keeping gloves for a third game in a row. Smith bowled an absolute seed next to dislodge the number 4's leg stump. Next Louis Haywood took a smart grab at gully, one handed to a ball coming fast. 16-0 had become 22-4. The wickets kept coming , Smith trapping his 4th victim lbw. Lowe was still bowling fantastically finding the edge of the Osterley no6, unfortunately squirted between keeper and slip...hang on...surely not...Mayo leaped across to his left, and plucked the ball from a few inches above the ground in his left paw. A roar came from the 3's who had been engaged in some harmless debauchery since finishing their game at 3:25 pm, what a sensational catch by a sensational bloke. Lowe wasn't finished there though, he picked up another LBW to give him his 4th wicket. 39-8. Chambo, tasting the fruits of two jug avoidance jugs, took both Smith (4-23) and Lowe (4-16) off and replaced them with Yorke Starkey and Nurse. Perhaps willing to revenge the late order damage Charlie did in our innings, the remaining Osterley batters went after both bowlers, hitting some genuinely lusty blows. The remaining batters put on just under 30, untill Nurse took the remaining two wickets, one back spasmic caught and bowled, one stumping. A proper team performance with everyone contributing and what a way to start our 10 match winning streak, onto next week.

North Midd 3rd XI vs Highgate (Home)
Highgate 52 all out from 29 overs
North Midd 56-2 from 14 overs
North Midd win by 8 wickets

Rocking up to the Midd yesterday I had a sense of excitement akin to Christmas morning. Some of the boys had managed to squeeze in multiple nets during the week, it was predicted to be north of 32 degrees during the day and the pitch looked an absolute belter. There was a feeling that this could be one of the great days, we win the toss, we bat, the top order manage a ton or two, we run Highgate into the ground in the sizzling heat. Post 300+ and then watch our openers tear through them. A huge team effort with everyone playing their part and those 12 point victory ice cold beers would taste so so sweet. Alas when I woke up from my daydreaming the skipper had lost the toss and we were bowling. Bollocks. The hour that followed was honestly one of the most selfish displays of cricket I’ve seen in a long time. Kenna opened up and within a couple of overs had their captain, and what would prove to be their only real batting threat, trapped so plumb he actually walked before being given. On the promise of a pint, Luke then gave him the Cottrell salute send off which pretty much set the ruthless tone for the rest of the innings. There wasn’t a loose ball, dropped catch or misfield to be seen. On arguably the best batting day we’ll see at the Midd this year, the bowlers decided to not give anyone the chance to score a few by bowling them out for 52. I was conflicted, on the one hand watching all 5 bowlers contribute with wickets, ripping through an opposition and leaving us an all but certain 10 points was fantastic. But equally I couldn’t help but think that they’d deliberately, spitefully and selfishly ruined our (our being batsmen in both teams) days. We knocked the required runs off with no real fuss. Day over by 3.20. The fines meeting lasted almost as long as our entire innings and the rest of the day was spent jugs a plenty soaking up the sun. It was nice to get back to winning ways, but as I handed over my £15 for a TFC which wasn’t my fault I had the feeling I’d been cheated out of a ton by my own teammates. Has no one told them it’s a batsmen’s game? In all seriousness a cracking display which would have skittled any side in the league cheaply. Keep it coming boys, there’s a trophy to be won.

North Midd 4th XI vs Brondesbury (Away)
Brondesbury 107/10
North Midd 79/10
Brondesbury Won by 28

In relentless heat the 4s headed over to Edmonton to take on a Brondesbury side. A rarity in times cricket as they won the toss and opted to bat. Traffic blunders struck us again as we started with 10 one of which was Olly Buxton kindly coming to field barefoot as we waited for Dhaval and Tim to join us. Undeterred Danny Holden managed to snick their opener to Alex Thomas for a nice grab at slip for the early breakthrough. Alfie at the other end with a sharp opening spell of 15-1. Bowling changes were needed every 4 overs in the heat and with his first ball after joining us late Dhaval trapped their opener LBW. A second grab at slip shortly after had his figures at 2-3 and eventually finished with 5 overs 2-9. Not to be outdone the skipper from the other end grabbed a wicket with his first over, followed by a rank half tracker snagged on the boundary. Wickets kept going in an unprecedented collapse as Tom reached his 5fer with only one run conceded. They proceeded to then frustrate us adding 50 for the last wicket, with a few edges hitting the ground before Simon took an absolute blinder off Alfie’s bowling to leave us 107 to chase. A special mention must go to Nico who was incredible in the field today and led with fantastic energy throwing himself around everywhere, chasing down the balls to the long boundary and didn’t let a ball past him all day. 1 hour to deal with before lunch the chase didn’t get off to a great start as we fell quickly to 6-2. Arj and Toon settles down nicely after that, running brilliantly (including running a 4 after a big pasta lunch). We recovered to 53-2 and were looking solid but it was from there the wheels fell off. After Arj cut one to point for a solid 28 we fell from 53-2 to 65-9. Dhaval hit a few boundaries to give us a bit of hope but the skipper missed a straight one and we were finished for 79. Their 10th wicket partnership was the difference in a bitterly disappointing loss but we move onto Southgate next week.

North Midd 5th XI vs Finchley (Home)
North Midd 189/7 from 50 overs
Finchley 192/6 from 37 overs
North Midd lost by 4 wickets

Where to start with this game? Perhaps with Noman, the buccaneering, enigmatic character. He had text at 2.29am on Saturday to say, despite a season-ending shoulder injury, he would be playing for the opposition. Perhaps with Richard Sarfo, the much travelled player who had a short stay with us last year. Perhaps with Finchley themselves, who rocked up at 12.55 for a 12.30 start then took 4 hours to bowl 50 overs without apology. Overall, a day of incredible frustration and an outcome that even when the dust has settled, simply doesn't sit right.
We got stuck in and, with Will in traffic on his way from Highgate, sent Sebbie and Linus out to open and the pair went well, before the former received a decent nut to be bowled. Richard (43) joined Linus and both players struggled for timing, accumulating slowly but crucially protecting their wickets. Richard, always dependable, played a crucial hand, batting through the middle overs and beginning to establish a score for the team. Will Frais (25) looked more fluent and played well, striking three fours before cutting into the hands of point. Charles (40) also found timing difficult, cobbling together a knock which helped bat the overs, but probably left us 20 short. Danny Francis looked solid on his 5s return to finish not out.
In reply, the bowlers started superbly. Sanjay (2fer) started brilliantly, cleaning up their opening pair, before James (3/26) had his first, well caught by Nirusha at a strategically placed wide long on. James quickly added a couple more, bizarre caught and bowled celebration included, to leave Finchley 30/5. What followed is better glossed over quickly with a number of close appeals not going our way. Harry, Nirusha, James and Sanjay in particular deserve great credit for their bowling. Noman made 65 having had a best of 30 for the Midd. The script as they say, was written. Onto next week and Alexandra Park. Please be available if you can.

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