Champions Highland close out unbeaten Nosca season with derby win over Northern Counties
The 2019 North of Scotland senior cricket league came to a close last weekend, with Highland completing an unbeaten season.
The fixture list threw up a mouth-watering Inverness derby for the final game, with the champions’ local rivals Northern Counties making the short trip across Inverness to Fraser Park.
When the two sides met earlier in the season, it took some unbelievable heroics from Kacy Clement to see Highland over the line – so Northern Counties will have been optimistic going in that lightning could not strike twice.
Counties opted to bat first on a slow and damp wicket after winning the toss.
Even in less than ideal conditions though, opening batsman David Dugdale played a chanceless innings.
His 68, helped along by a late flurry from William Ford, steered the visitors to a defendable 131-8 from their 45 overs.
Highland skipper John Paul proved to be the pick of the bowlers, taking 3-27.
But there was no rest for the weary, and Paul was soon called into action with the bat when he saw his side reduced to 12-2 after just five overs.
The captain joined Euan Smith at the crease and rebuilt the innings with a partnership of 58.
Paul (32) would be the first to go, and when Smith (58) departed that sparked a mini-collapse.
Momentum swing back towards Counties, but the turning point came when Lewis Pacey appeared to bowl Irtaza Hassan, only for it to be ruled a no-ball.
The free hit was dispatched over the boundary for six, and it looked like the result was Highland’s for the taking.
Counties fought back again though, with Pacey bowling Hassan for 32 before James Lean got rid of Rory Cameron for a duck.
With two overs to go, all three results were still possible.
But when Pacey overstepped in the final over that might as well have been it, and Highland completed an unbeaten season for the first time in 12 years.
Counties still managed to move up to second in the table by virtue of matches won after finishing on exactly the same percentage as Nairn County, who lost to Buckie by three wickets.
The knock of the day went to Ross County’s Graeme Carney though, who scored a massive 141 not out in County’s 165-run win over Elgin.
Pal Dhami also hit a century as Forres beat Huntly.