Middlesex miss out in dramatic finish at Gloucestershire
- Credit: PA
Glenn Phillips scored a brilliant 52 from 39 balls as Gloucestershire successfully chased down a target of 164 with one ball to spare to defeat Middlesex by five wickets in a dramatic finish to their Vitality Blast match in Bristol.
Overseas star Phillips and Jack Taylor added 81 for the fifth wicket in nine overs as the home side recovered from 73-4 in the 11th over to set up a grandstand finish.
Benny Howell finished things off in fine style, hitting Tom Helm for six off the penultimate ball to snatch a victory that sees Gloucestershire finish fifth in the South Group.
Middlesex earlier won the toss and raised 163-4, Matt Holden contributing a quickfire 37 and Stephen Eskinazi carrying his bat to post a useful 65 not out.
But Howell and Smith returned tidy figures to keep the visitors within sight, both taking a wicket and conceding just 45 runs in eight overs between them.
Holden provided Middlesex with a turbo-charged start to their innings, crashing 37 from 19 balls and dominating an opening stand of 57 in 4.3 overs with Eskinazi.
The left-hander combined clean hitting with clever improvisation to accrue half a dozen fours and a six, taking advantage of some loose bowling to help the visitors raise 50 from 23 balls.
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Gloucestershire held their nerve, weathered the early storm and breathed a collective sigh of relief when Holden mistimed a drive off Glenn Phillips and holed out to Tom Price at long-off.
Tom Smith had Joe Cracknell held at backward square leg on his way to figures of 1-22 from four overs, while Benny Howell bowled John Simpson to reduce Middlesex to 74-3 in the ninth, at which point three wickets had fallen for the addition of 18 runs in four overs.
Playing a captain's innings, Eskinazi set his sights on carrying his bat, sharing a stand of 64 in 8.5 overs with Josh De Caires to repair the damage and at least ensure Middlesex posted a competitive total.
It may not have been spectacular fare - his 50 occupied 46 balls - but his innings exerted a steadying influence upon a team that has struggled to find a winning formula in the short format this summer.
Attempting to force the issue in the closing overs, De Caires skied Jack Taylor to Howell at short extra cover for 24 as Gloucestershire's bowlers kept a lid on things, Howell returning impressive figures of 1-23 from four overs.
Eskinazi finished unbeaten on 65 from 55 balls, managing just two fours and a brace of sixes in a pragmatic knock which proved effective rather than memorable.
Gloucestershire's reply made a stuttering start, openers George Scott and Chris Dent departing cheaply in a six-over powerplay that saw the hosts limp to 38-2 in the face of nagging accuracy from Max Harris and Helm.
Harris then accounted for James Bracey, the Bristolian holing out to deep midwicket in pursuit of a second successive maximum as the hosts slipped to 52-3 in the eighth over.
Phillips and Miles Hammond advanced the score to 72-3 at halfway, at which point Gloucestershire required a further 92 runs to win at 9.2 an over. Under pressure to accelerate, Hammond promptly pulled Thilan Walawallita to deep mid-wicket as Middlesex further turned the screw.
Chris Green, Luke Hollman and Walawallita took the pace off to good effect during the middle part of the innings as the required rate climbed to above 10-an-over for the first time.
In his last appearance for Gloucestershire before teaming up with the New Zealand tourists, Phillips responded by driving Walawallita for six over long-on and then plundering another leg-side maximum off Jason Behrendorff, while Taylor played second fiddle and rotated the strike expertly to keep the home side in the hunt.
With 31 needed off three overs and the fifth-wicket pair well-established, Gloucestershire must have fancied their chances of completing the job.
Pacing his innings to perfection, Phillips smashed Helm back over his head for a straight six as the target came down to 21 off two overs.
Phillips went to 50 via 37 balls, but Green conceded just eight runs off the penultimate over, leaving Gloucestershire to score 13 off the last to win.
Helm responded magnificently under pressure, having Phillips caught at deep midwicket to put the outcome in doubt, but Howell remained cool, smiting the penultimate delivery for an almighty six over long-on to win the day.