Simpson heroics in vain as Middlesex suffer Twenty20 defeat to Gloucestershire
John Simpson’s best ever Twenty20 innings could not prevent Middlesex’s third straight defeat as they went down to Gloucestershire by 43 runs at Richmond.
The Middlesex wicketkeeper struck 74 from 49 balls, but it was nowhere near enough for his side to overhaul Gloucestershire – and they have yet to taste T20 success against the West Country side in seven attempts.
The home side – who were depleted by the absences of England duo Eoin Morgan and Steven Finn, as well as batsmen Joe Burns and Dawid Malan – won the toss and opted to field.
Gloucestershire captain Michael Klinger has been in unstoppable form so far in this year’s tournament, but he made just 10 before he was first to go, miscuing a hook off James Harris (1-40) to fine leg.
The visitors kept the scoreboard ticking over and Peter Handscomb (29) was just beginning to get into his stride when he was run out at 61-2 by James Franklin’s direct hit from mid-off.
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But Middlesex struggled to find any control and Ian Cockbain and Benny Howell soon started to accelerate, with the hundred coming up in the 12th over after a savage assault on Nathan Sowter (0-31).
The third-wicket pair cut loose as they added 101 before Cockbain, who had made 75 from just 39 deliveries, sliced Toby Roland-Jones (1-47) to short third man.
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However, Howell continued in similar vein, bludgeoning Roland-Jones down the ground to reach his half-century and reaching 59 before he was run out by Kyle Abbott off his own bowling.
Former England wicketkeeper Geraint Jones finished unbeaten on 34 as Gloucestershire posted a formidable 214-4 from 20 overs – and the home side’s hopes of overhauling that rested largely on the shoulders of Paul Stirling.
The Irishman clattered a couple of quick sixes to reach 13, but then chopped on to Craig Miles, while Nick Compton (8) skied David Payne (5-24) to cover.
Nick Gubbins, drafted in for his T20 debut, shone with a breezy knock of 28 from 14 balls but, once he top-edged Payne into the gloves of Jones, the home side were in trouble at 53-3.
Franklin and Simpson began rebuilding the innings with a stand of 58, with the latter hammering two sixes and a four in a single Jack Taylor over that cost 21 runs.
But Franklin (16) holed out to long-on, Andy Balbirnie followed him first ball and Neil Dexter (2) was caught behind off Miles to leave Middlesex on 121-6.
Simpson progressed to his half-century, cracking former team-mate Tom Smith for six to pass that milestone for the second time in T20 cricket, but he was last man out, caught at long-on as the Middlesex innings closed on 171.