Gubbins holds his nerve
Nick Gubbins scored a faultless century as Middlesex were crowned Under-17 County Champions at Canterbury after a thrilling last-ball victory over Nottinghamshire.
Chasing 252 for victory, Middlesex looked doomed after they slipped to 23 for three.
Gubbins has other ideas, however, and his sublime 106 was a mature innings beyond his tender years.
Having added 56 with Nishanth Selvakumar, Gubbins joined forces with Dipesh Paul and their stand of 87 appeared to have won the game for Middlesex.
Nottinghamshire responded with a late flurry of wickets which left Middlesex 239 for nine – still needing 13 runs to win.
Last pair Jamie Porter, who bravely batted on after taking a nasty blow to the helmet, and Rashid Mullahzada gradually chipped away at the total until four runs were needed off the 100th and final over.
Porter lofted a drive over mid off and scampered three runs leaving Mullahzada to hit the winning run off the final delivery.
After a topsy-turvy first day where Nottinghamshire recovered from 79 for five to reach a competitive 251, the second and final day proved to be just as much a rollercoaster ride.
Nottinghamshire grabbed the initiative as early as the third over when Brett Hutton bowled Tom Simmons, the balls ricocheting off bat and pad before dislodging the bails.
The fielding side were celebrating in the next over as Middlesex slumped to five for two.
Captain James Kettleborough chased a wide delivery from George Bacon and was smartly caught by wicketkeeper Adeel Shafique.
It got worse for Middlesex when Adam Rossington sliced a drive off Bacon straight into the hands of Hassan Azad at gully – a dismissal which left the scoreboard reading a sorry 23 for three.
Angus Fraser, Middlesex’s managing director of cricket, must have feared the worst as he watched on from the press box.
To his relief, Middlesex gradually began to claw themselves out of the mire with the elegant Shaan Khan in charge of the fightback.
A sweetly struck cover drive and audacious uppercut off Bacon helped take Middlesex past 50 but a rush of blood proved Khan’s undoing.
Having swept miserly off-spinner Adam Dobb for four at the start of the 23rd over, he unwisely attempted a repeat of the stroke and top-edged a looping catch to Hutton who cantered back from slip.
With Middlesex now 60 for four, Gubbins adopted an attacking policy with successive boundaries – a back foot punch through mid-on then a cover drive – off Conor Scott as Middlesex survived the remainder of the session without any further casualties.
Nottinghamshire struck moments after lunch as Bacon induced the diminutive Nishanth Selvakumar to edge behind which left Middlesex on 106 for five.
But Gubbins maintained his positive approach and soon reached his fifty with the only six of the innings, a powerful pull shot which landed close to where the famous oak tree used to reside.
The left-hander kept a cool head under his maroon helmet and received excellent support from Paul, who showed he could bat with a well-timed clip to the midwicket boundary.
The pair put on 87 for the sixth wicket before Paul, on 35, became Shafique’s third victim with Sam Wood this time the successful bowler.
Seemingly cruising at one point, Middlesex then slipped to 220 for seven when Brett Hutton pinned Vinay Shah in front – a wicket that gave Nottinghamshire a sniff of victory.
But as long as Gubbins remained at the crease, Middlesex were favourites and he brought up a faultless hundred, from 213 balls, by tucking a single into the legside before saluting his ecstatic team-mates.
With just 16 needed, Gubbins finally perished in the early evening sun as Bacon provided a late sting in the tail – his well-disguised slower ball crashing into the stumps as the centurion aimed a deflection into the leg side.
Harry Podmore soon followed but Porter and Mullahzada remained composed to finish off the job.