Middlesex beat Surrey by one wicket in thrilling T20 match at Lords
- Credit: Archant
Middlesex won a thrilling T20 match against London rivals Surrey by a single wicket on Thursday at a sold-out Lords.
The home team made it over the line – just – after being set 159 to win after Surrey earlier finished on 158-9 off 20 overs.
Everyone in the crowd of more than 27,000 held their breath as number 11 batsman – the Watford Wall – Steven Finn saw his team home with a four off Ravi Rampaul with eight balls remaining.
It was a thrilling end to a wonderfully entertaining game, and a fitting end to a memorable week of cricket in St John’s Wood.
Lords has been at its resplendent best this week. The home of the game hosted capacity crowds for the four days it took a young, resurgent England Test side to crush the South African tourists.
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Thursday saw the turn of Middlesex and Surrey to enjoy this most glorious of cricket grounds for their T20 match.
This fixture is an important snapshot in the assessing the health of our summer game.
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There have been years – when blighted by bad weather and more worryingly a lack of interest – the clash of these two London rivals in the short format has seen crowds lucky to reach five figures. However, not for a few years thankfully.
You could tell it was another sell-out by the large number of touts congregating at St John’s tube speaking out of the side of their mouths, offering tickets for more than £100 to bemused cricket lovers. Some of who may even have scoffed at thought of a black market at Middlesex with the bright and open spaces readily available – and welcomed – by afficionados for the relaxing cadences the lack of spectators bring to county games.
But not tonight. Not for the biggest crowd in the NatWest Blast T20 – and as such entire domestic calendar. Not for Middlesex v Surrey.
The marketing department at Lords deserves a special pat on the back for the way they have sold this fixture, and indeed all of the mighty Seaxes’ games in this type of cricket.
For the packed stands are a world away from the sedate nature of country cricket – as wonderful a form of the game may be to many, this correspondent included.
Yet the fact is for better or worse T20 can help save domestic cricket by attracting a new crowd.
And for this fixture that means The City at play.
Chinos and smart shirts, floral dresses and champagne.
You are more likely to hear a discussion about the quality of a good broker than a good cover drive.
But, if T20 was considered good enough for the legendary Richie Benaud – who saw it as way of attracting new disciples as much as he forecast it would see an explosion in athleticism and innovative batting and bowling – then so be it.
Cricket, despite the new TV deal that will see the sport, or more specifically this form of the sport, is set to reach the larger audience of terrestrial TV – although not until, appropriately enough, 2020 – is in no position to dictate terms.
It needs every fan it can get.
And if that means a younger, perhaps more inebriated crowd, shall we shall, who may be more pounds sterling trades than Paul Stirling’s blades then that has to be a deal worth taking if it helps secure the future of the game.
Because if T20 does well, then counter-intuitively it will also only benefit the longer-form of the game.
If T20 is represented by a punk, then the County Championship is an elderly aunt, albeit one who has seen far more than she’s given credit for.
A player who would also have been written off if his date of birth was the only criteria is the wonderful Sri Lankan Kumar Sangakkara.
His 70 off 64 balls formed the basis for Surrey’s patchy though ultimately challenging total of 158.
Aaron Finch, that aggressive bull from Southern Victoria threatened to cut loose but never did with a useful but below par knock off 22 off 20 balls before being bowled by Middlesex’s Tom Helm. For an Australian who made a world record 156 against England at the Rose Bowl in 2013 including 14 sixes, there may have been a few in the home crowd disappointed at his relative failure.
Batsmen came and went with reassuring regularity – if you were a Middlesex supporter – although on these nights, bar the bright headdresses handed out in the home team’s T20 colours it is difficult to tell if the colours were donned simply to match Jack Wills pink and blue leisurewear.
No matter Scott Borthwick laboured for 16 off 26 balls, though it may have been more a case of making sure he held down an end so that the full complement of overs was used. As for the redoubtable Gareth Batty’s 0 off seven precious balls at the death it was hard to tell.
Helm was the pick of the Middlesex bowlers with three for 29, as New Zealand’s Tim Southee offered support with two for 23 and Stirling two for 16.
The target of 159 for the home side to chase appeared a relatively easy proposition.
The consensus during the break was that any side with the visceral batting power of Kiwi Brendan McCullum, the brutal Paul Stirling, Dawid Malan – fresh from his clinical 78 on debut against South Africa and James Franklin should be romping home. It was fair comment even if we all know there are no certainties in cricket, bar of course the obligatory popping of champagne corks high into the air during big games at Lords.
As the home side raced to 37 off 3.3 overs during an opening stand between McCullum and Stirling before the Ulsterman who off for a quickfire 23 off 16 balls caught by Batty off Ravi Rampaul’s bowling, it seemed as if the predication of an easy win would come to fruition.
There was to be no respite for Surrey’s bowlers with the talented Sam Curran suffering more than his sibling Tom, although a mighty six lofted high into the air before landing deep in the Tavern Stand beyond the square leg boundary by Malan off Rampaul suggested the home batsmen weren’t choosy who they scored heavily off. With the scoreboard on 68 off 7.2 overs McCullum who was positively becalmed on nine off 12 balls played an agricultural cross-bat and hoiked out to cow corner after that man Sangakkara showed as pair of safe hands in the deep, as he shows soft hands when exhibiting his wonderful batting.
Could this yet be a contest?
With England’s ODI captain Eoin Morgan up next not many were predicting anything other than a home win at this stage.
But when the excellent Malan was adjudged out after 19-year-old Ollie Pope took a low catch off the bowling of Batty Middlesex found themselves 80-3 off 9.2 overs.
However, a 53-run fifth wicket partnership appeared to lead the team to the verge of victory before Morgan was out caught Sibley bowled Batty.
Tim Southee was then out first ball after Sangakkaara caught him off the wily Batty with 26 still required, off fewer than five overs.
The 22-year-old Ryan Higgins from Zimbabwe then took ten off the first two balls of the 16th over, before bowler Tom Curran’s had him caught behind by Foakes chasing a wider than expected ball.
Franklin was then bowled by Curran with a ball that pitched up for the second wicket in his over as the Kiwi was out for 23 off 23 balls.
Middlesex needed nine off 18 balls and it was down to wicketkeeper John Simpson and Nathan Sowter to bring them home. Or so we thought.
It could have been different if young Sibley had taken a difficult midwicket chance off the Jade Dernbach off SImpson before a late cut the very next ball was also put down, this time by Borthwick
He tried not to look crestfallen but he was. However he then caught Sowter shortly afterwards off a delighted Dernbach with Middlesex still needing six runs, now with only two wickets remaining.
Sibley then made amends for hiss drop by snaffling Simpson off Rampaul, leaving the home side stranded on 153-9 with nine balls remaining.
However Rampaul conceded four leg byes as he bowled his first ball to the Watford Wall Steven Finn.
Agonisingly for Surrey supporters the ball flew beyond the despairing dive of Foakes hurtling down to the fine leg boundary at the Nursery End.
As the whole ground held its breath in anticipation, not knowing which of these great rivals would win this thrilling game Finn slammed the ball through midwicket for four.
The ground erupted a cheer of relief as much as joy at the finale of this absorbing match as Middlesex won by the slenderest margins of a single wicket.
Batty was the pick of the Surrey bowlers with four for 14, while Curran took two for 34 but it was to no avail as Middlesex won a gripping match,
No-one here could begrudge the cost of their ticket – not even those souls who met the touts ridiculous asking prices.
With sport this entertaining on offer, who knows some of them might even return for some proper cricket one day soon.
As it was everyone went home thoroughly entertained. Which is the whole point of T20 cricket.