Middlesex beat Nepal as Balbirnie shines at Radlett

Andrew Balbirnie in the field

Andrew Balbirnie in the field - Credit: Archant

Andrew Balbirnie, the Middlesex batsman, seems to enjoy playing at Cobden Hill, the home of Radlett Cricket Club.

Two weeks after scoring a match-winning 44 in a T20 match against Glamorgan 2s, he was back at it again yesterday, scoring 72 as he guided Middlesex 2s to a 14-run victory over Nepal.

Replacing Cam Steel after the 19-year-old scored 15 off 12 balls, including two fours before he was bowled, Balbirnie consistently found the boundary to keep run-rate above seven an over.

At the other end, Ryan Higgins was also finding gaps, scoring back-to-back fours in the fourth over and striding down the wicket to hit Paras Khadka back down the ground.

It was Balbirnie who was the difference, though. His shot selection was magnificent, utilising the sweep to hit the spinners to the boundary and flicking the seamers over his shoulder into fine leg. Nepal had one chance to get him out on 38, but he was dropped and went on to punish the tourists.

Higgins played a superb innings until he tried the same trick and toe-end the ball up in the air. He walked for a well-made 38, clearly frustrated as evidenced by the choice words he had for his bat once back in the dressing room.

For their part, Nepal’s spinners posed some tough questions for a while, but once Balbirnie found the answers, he drove Shakti Gauchan through extra cover before sweeping him for the first six of the game.

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For all his excellence, his dismissal was disappointing, caught too far out of his crease at the non-striker’s end thanks to a fantastic direct hit from Jitendra Mukhiya, who finished the day with two wickets.

Stephen Eskinazi smacked an 11-ball 23, including a six that could have been caught on the boundary but was dropped over the rope, and George Scott’s hard running picked up seven as Middlesex closed on 164-4.

Nepal’s run chase started slowly before picking up pace as Gyanendra Malla and Subash Khakurel found their groove, scoring 12 and 15 off consecutive overs to help Nepal reach 66-1 at the halfway mark, 14 runs behind where Middlesex had been at the same point.

Ravi Patel put the brakes on the chase with two wickets in the 11th over, forcing Malla to offer up a catch to Higgins and then spinning a ball through Khadka’s guard.

The target got away from Nepal from there on out. Harry Podmore and Gurjit Sandhu returned to take three wickets between them and keep runs to a minimum as Middlesex recorded a 14-run win.