Middlesex beat Sussex by two runs in thrilling T20 finish at Lord’s

A superb final over from Middlesex's Tom Helm won the match

A superb final over from Middlesex's Tom Helm won the match - Credit: Archant

Middlesex snatched an unlikely victory against Sussex in front of another packed house at Lord’s after they won a thrilling finish by two runs.

Steve Eskinazi hit 57 not out at Lords. Credit Middlesex CCC

Steve Eskinazi hit 57 not out at Lords. Credit Middlesex CCC - Credit: Archant

The visitors from the south coast restricted the home side to what seemed a below par 147-6 off 20 overs and looked well set for most of their innings to reach the total comfortably. However on a slow track with a slow outfield the total proved to be sufficient – just.

As late wickets continued to fall along with an incredible last over from Tom Helm – which shed three runs when five were required – the home team picked up the vital win they required to keep their faint hopes alive of qualifying from the group stage.

Earlier Steve Eskinazi had excelled by hitting 57 not out off 44 balls but too many colleagues holed out at crucial times for the total to be intimidating – or so it seemed.

The Sussex bowlers all played a part with Chris Jordan impressive, along with miserly bowling from others, notably George Garton.

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In reply Chris Nash – who was hurt in a clash with team-mate David Wiesse as they bravely went for a lofted ball from Eoin Morgan – hit 69 off 52 balls.

It may have been South African Wiesse who took the catch despite being toppled by his colleague but the commitment both showed despite the risk of injury summed up the energetic Sussex fielding.

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And as Nash later returned to hit his half century it seemed certain Sussex would reach the target of 148 without too much drama.

Little did they know.

The dreadful weather may have eased off on Thursday to remind us we do still have a summer but it was Middlesex who had to prove as relentless as the rain this week if they were to win this game.

Quite simply after last week’s disappointing loss against Hampshire at Lord’s with an inexperienced team through international call-ups and injuries, Daniel Vettori’s side had to win their last four matches.

Sportsmen like clarity, none more so than cricketers, and the target certainly focused minds.

As it was, Paul Stirling, back in the side as opener, along with partner John Simpson, promoted from batting at number three made a steady if unspectacular start, aided by Sussex wicketkeper Taylor dropping a sharp chance off the bowling of Wiesse.

A few lusty blows were starting to convince spectators and fielders alike the error would be costly.

As Stirling hooked a huge six into the Mound Stand off Garton as the home side reached 54-1 off 6.4 overs – after ending the powerplay on 46-1 four balls earlier – the feeling was growing we could be seeing something special. However Garton slowed down the scoring eventually prompting the powerful Stirling to hole out to Chris Jordan at long-off from the bowling of Briggs, as the score reached 70-2 off the tenth.

It was a productive knock from the Ulsterman who gathered 40 off 30 balls, but there is always the feeling of an anti-climax when he departs in a T20 match.

England ODI captain Eoin Morgan came to the crease. He is so well-respected in the game to the point his opinion is sought by representatives of the South African cricket board over the appointment of Otis Gibson as their coach.

As they reached 81-2 off 11 eleven they appeared well-set to kick-on but wickets were lost at crucial points in the game to prevent the home side from posting a daunting target they once threatened.

And as Nash and Weisse collided after Morgan swiped to deep square as the seam bowling allrounder took a steepling catch while being felled by Nash – to send the Irishman back to the pavilion, or the portable team seats that looks more like a glorified bus shelter – for 10 the score was finely poised on 89-3.

The brave Nash left the field to be subbed by Phil Salt after being coming off worst in the clash, but would show his mettle by returning – and excelling – as a batsman.

Franklin then holed out for 10 off six balls, caught in the deep by Archer off Garton who had mostly been miserly as the total crept to 93-4 off 12.3 overs.

Another wicket fell making it 115-5 off 15.5 overs after Scott made room for himself but was castled by the impressive Jordan for eight off 11 balls.

With only three wins and five losses from a total of ten matches played before Thursday night, the situation was starting to look terminal for Middlesex as they sat second from bottom of the South Group at the start.

Their plight became even worse despite Eskinazi reaching his half-century to move to 52 off 39 balls as Vettori’s men lost another wicket as Higgins bowled Archer for nine off 10 with the score 140-6 off 19.2 overs.

They eventually finished on 147-6 off their full complement of 20 overs with Eskinazi offering staunch resistance on 57 not out off 44 but the home side flattered to deceive by posting a below par total. Or so this correspondent believed.

Jordan was the pick of the bowlers with two for 29 as his pace and menace unsettled batsmen throughout, but in truth every Sussex bowler deserved credit including Briggs two for 34 and Garton’s miserly one for 26, all off four overs.

Just as the superb fielding display – exemplified by a fantastic van Zyl stop on the boundary – also contributed.

The visitors from the south coast required 148 to win off a run rate of more than seven. It was a task made easier when Wright was spilled by Scott at midwicket in the second over.

It didn’t prove to be an expensive mistake as Steven Finn snaffled Wright with his first ball after an excellent catch by Morgan at deep gully/point to leave Sussex 21-1 off 2.1 overs.

Nash, recovered from his clash in the field helped move the score to 77-2 in tandem with the energetic Van zyl before Sowter took an excellent running catch at deep mid-off to see him depart for 34 off 26. All seemed to change after that as wickets started to fall with regularity.

But despite Finn bowling Taylor for three to gain his second wicket as the PA blared out The Beatles anthemic ‘Hey Jude’ for another 22,000 crowd a press box wag suggested it should have been ‘Help’ that was playing for Middlesex.

An unusual statistic had both teams being on 104-4 off 14 overs.

If you were kind you could argue an extra 20 or 30 runs by Middlesex would have changed the complexion of the game entirely – but in all truth, watchers of the club have been saying that every year since the glories of 2008.

There was still time for Nash to depart after his excellent 69 off 52, gone leg before by Sowter as high drama at the death saw Sussex requiring five off the last over from Helm.

After a swing and miss from Archer from the first ball faced, Middlesex hearts started to beat a little faster in hope.

A second fruitless empty slog saw two dot balls in two, before he then holed out to Helm’s third ball sending it high and down into the safe hands of Finn to leave five off three needed.

With the batsmen crossing Wiesse then ran two off the fifth ball to leave two off the final ball required.

Incredibly another swing and a miss from the South African saw Middlesex improbably clinch the win by two runs.

The burners spouting flames to mark the win could easily have been signalling that Middlesex’s T20 hopes for another year were going up in smoke only moments before such are the vagaries of this wonderful sport – and this thrilling format of the game.

Three more wins are required now for Middlesex to progress.

After tonight’s unbelievable result, don’t back against them just yet.

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