T20: Malan steers Middlesex past Gloucestershire
- Credit: Nick Wood/TGS Photo
Dawid Malan’s imperious unbeaten knock of 91 steered Middlesex to a rare Vitality Blast T20 victory against Gloucestershire at Radlett as they climbed to second place in the South Group.
Middlesex had registered only one win in their previous seven home T20 games against the West Country side - but always looked in control as they triumphed by seven wickets in the ground's inaugural Blast fixture.
The Seaxes' skipper entertained a sell-out crowd of 2,227 as he flayed the Gloucestershire bowling to the tune of 91 from 59 deliveries, including seven fours and four sixes.
At 156-3, Middlesex still needed 13 from 11 balls when a heavy downpour descended on the Cobden Hill ground - but their nine-run lead under the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern system was enough to secure the two points.
Gloucestershire opted to bat after winning the toss and Miles Hammond (42) immediately went on the offensive, hitting Tom Helm for successive boundaries and sweeping Mujeeb Ur-Rahman to register the first six of the match.
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The left-hander dominated an opening stand of 53 with Michael Klinger, but Toby Roland-Jones and Steven Finn, bowling accurately in tandem, put the squeeze on Gloucestershire as they picked off the first three wickets for 20 runs.
Roland-Jones (1-22) made the breakthrough with one that kept low and uprooted Klinger's middle stump, while Finn (3-18) found the outside edge of Ian Cockbain (1) before having Hammond caught on the boundary.
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Former Middlesex all-rounder Ryan Higgins picked up the baton with 19 from 13 balls, including two maximums off Nathan Sowter - who had the last word by taking the catch to dismiss him when he skied Finn to deep mid-wicket.
James Bracey (32) and Jack Taylor (22) both holed out after threatening to dominate the closing stages, while a late flurry from Graeme van Buuren (22) guided the visitors to a total of 168-8.
Gloucestershire needed wickets in the powerplay to stand much chance of defending that total, but they failed to collect any as Malan and Paul Stirling quickly made inroads into the target.
Stirling displayed an effective mix of power and placement, punching two boundaries off Van Buuren's first over and swinging across the line to slam David Payne for an enormous six over long-on.
The opener had made 33 from 26 balls when he speared Chris Liddle (2-32) into the hands of deep extra cover - but his departure was no more than a fleeting setback for Middlesex.
Malan took a particular liking to the bowling of Tom Smith, dispatching the left-armer back over his head for the six that brought up his half-century from 30 balls and following that by sweeping and reverse sweeping the next two deliveries for four.
Stevie Eskinazi (12) became Liddle's second victim as he miscued to cover and Eoin Morgan (16) also perished before the heavens suddenly opened to bring the game to a premature conclusion.
Malan said: "We summed the wicket up pretty early, that spin wasn't really going to play a part - which is tough when you've got three seamers. So we had to gamble early, trying to get them to chase it late on.
"Finny and 'RoJo' bowled fantastically well in those middle overs and they took crucial wickets at crucial times, which then allowed us to bowl spin at the end. We're happy to give runs away to take wickets - that's the mentality that we've changed and the boys are all buying into it.
"We've only been hit for over 200 once. The rest of the time we've been controlling everything with the ball, and that's probably the reason we're in the position we're in.
"Everyone came in and played the way we wanted to play. To chase a score of 160-170, you have to have one player that bats through and thankfully it was my day. But the way the boys batted around it was fantastic."
Turning point: Higgins had looked dangerous, but succumbed when Finn tempted him with a short ball and Gloucestershire's hopes of getting close to 200 probably went with him.
Shot of the day: Malan struck four sixes, but the best of them was the shot that took him to 50 as he advanced down the wicket to Smith and deposited him cleanly over the boundary.
Unsung hero: Toby Roland-Jones again produced a consistent spell of 1-22 to peg the Gloucestershire batsmen back, as well as breaking the opening stand by dismissing Klinger.
Up next: Gloucestershire return to Bristol to take on Hampshire on Tuesday, while Middlesex are back in action the following day, facing Essex at Chelmsford.