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Hampshire outfox Middlesex to win T20 at Lord’s by six wickets

PUBLISHED: 21:16 03 August 2017 | UPDATED: 21:16 03 August 2017

Middlesex v Hampshire at Lord's. Picture: Layth Yousif

Middlesex v Hampshire at Lord's. Picture: Layth Yousif

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Hampshire outfoxed Middlesex at Lord’s as they beat the home side by six wickets in front of another huge crowd of more than 22,000 at Lord’s for the NatWest T20 Blast under the floodlights on Thursday evening.

Ryan Higgins of Middlesex (pic: Adam Davy/PA) Ryan Higgins of Middlesex (pic: Adam Davy/PA)

The visitors had bowled out the home side for 136 with five balls remaining of their allotted 20 overs. Kyle Abbott, who quit international cricket on a Kolpak deal to play for the south coast side was the pick of the bowlers with three for 26.

Steven Eskinazi hit an effortless 43 off 24 balls but wickets fell too frequently for Middlesex to post a challenging total.

Hampshire then reached their target of 137 for the loss of four wickets with Rilee Rousouw hitting 60 against a young bowling attack.

It could have been more but he fell to Barber the first ball after a pitch incursion by a fast-paced fox who scampered around the outfield – greatly amusing those in attendance who gathered despite the game being televised live on Sky Sports.

Middlesex coach Daniel Vettori (pic: Nigel French/PA) Middlesex coach Daniel Vettori (pic: Nigel French/PA)

There may have been many new converts to the game here in NW8 – the short form of the game at any rate – who may not have realised that Daniel Vettori’s men had hauled themselves back into contention, before tonight’s emphatic defeat that all but put paid to Middlesex’s of progressing in this tournament.

With three points gained in their last two T20 fixtures, with a convincing 72 run victory against Essex last Thursday and a rained-off draw against Sussex at Hove, three wins from three at the Home of Cricket would have given them a real chance of qualifying from their congested South Group for the knock-out stages.

But without the world-class Brendan McCullum whose spell at the club has ended as he jets off to the Carribean for the West Indies edition of this fast-paced game they struggled

With England’s ODI captain Eoin Morgan taking over until Dawid Malan returns from England duty, the side had a different look tonight.

Middlesex face the cameras in their Natwest Blast T20 kit (pic Adam Davy/PA) Middlesex face the cameras in their Natwest Blast T20 kit (pic Adam Davy/PA)

Toby Roland-Jones is with the Test team, joined by Steven Finn. It may be his fast bowling that is missed but the Watford Wall found time to hit the winning boundary in the tightly-contested one wicket win over Surrey last month. Tim Southee also missed the match.

Hampshire, who did the double over their hosts having beaten them at the Ageas Bowl earlier in the campaign, sat a single point ahead of Middlesex before the start.

It was an overcast evening at Lord’s but it was Hampshire who started cold.

Having lost the toss as the home side elected to bat their fielders were sloppy early on allowing Steve Eskinazi to move to 19 off 12 as Middlesex moved to 21-0 off 2.3 overs.

It was good to see Gareth Berg back at Lord’s - who played a big role in the club’s Division Two title triumph in 2011 with a batting average of 41 batting and a bowling figure of 19 but it was Hampshire’s Chris Wood who made the breakthrough.

The 27-year-old right arm bowler – who describes himself as ‘mad, bad and competitive’ removed Nick Gubbins for four with the score on 24-1 after 3.2 overs.

Eskinazi then cross-batted Berg for a powerful boundary at cow corner before John Simpson was out for 16 off 13 pulling Holland to leg as Bailey caught him behind square with the score on 65-2 off 7.4.

The South-African-born Perth educated Eskinazi went as the sun made a brief appearance as he played across the line on a straight one from Crane and was bowled for 41 as the score limped on to 71-3.

Wickets continued to fall as the huge scalp of Morgan fell to Wood for 20 after chopping onto his stumps at 95-4.

It then became 108-5 as Berg got in on the act snaffling James Franklin for five after he scooped the ball straight to Alsop in the deep who made no mistake.

Adam Voges making a return was then run out for 14 to make it 114-6. It became seven down after a spectacular catch by Wood at deep midwicket after Ryan Higgins made room for himself to hit through the offside only for Wood to intervene and make it 125-7.

The home side were in deep trouble at 135-8 after Abbott snared another wicket after Sowter sliced it to Vince for nine after the former England man took a good running catch.

It was nine down soon after as Abbott bowled young Harry Podmore with a fierce yorker for six before Berg castled Helm for a duck as the home side limped to 136 all out off only 19.1 overs.

The pick of the bowlers was the impressive Abbott with 3-26 while the ‘mad, bad’ Wood was not far behind with 2-26.

Middlesex had it all to do if they were to win this game but Hampshire eased to 42-1 by the fifth before a strange thing happened that makes cricket such a wonderfully obtuse sport at times.

Helm toiling hard bowled a straight one that appeared to fly over former England batsman’s bails by a matter of millimetres. But the gust of wind generated saw the bails wobble and topple without any contact as he was officially bowled for 20.

Of course he accepted the decision with good grace even though he had every right to curse – even if it would have been Newton’s Lwas of Gravity rather than the MCC’s rulebook in this case that should have been the subject of his ire.

No matter, even if Tom Alsop was run out by the 22-year-old Higgins for 10 as the south coast side moved to 58-2.

Higgins, who said he would have been a full-time traveller if he hadn’t become a cricketer certainly showed a propensity to move as his sharp thinking forced another wicket. But it did little to half the south coast’s procession to the win.

George Bailey was then run out for three looking to rotate the strike after smart work from Eskinazi as the visitors reached 83-3 off ten overs.

However, Rilee Roussouw led the way as he reached 51 off 41 balls.

What a shame he – and Abbott – quit international cricket on a three-year Kolpak deal. What a shame money talks.

It was also a shame his fluent innings ended on 60, although the incursion onto the field of play by a scampering fox moments before may have had something to do with breaking his concentration as Barber snapped his him with the score on 123-4.

There were to be no more dramas as Sean Ervine hit the winning runs to reach the target with two over three balls remaining.

The Fantastic Mr Fox may have thrilled the crowd by his brief foray on the hallowed Lord’s turf but it was visitors Hampshire who proved to be the more wily side as they effectively ended the home team’s involvement in this tournament.

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