Middlesex beat Surrey by three wickets in T20 opener in front of raucous full house at Lord’s
- Credit: Archant
Middlesex beat Surrey by three wickets in the T20 Vitality Blast on a glorious summer evening at Lord’s. Read on for Layth Yousif’s report from the biggest match in English domestic cricket bar finals.
The queues snaked all around the North Gate off the Wellington Road as the five minute bell rang out around Lord’s on Thursday evening.
The club was nine tickets short of a 28,000 sell-out as the T20 crowd geared up for an evening of cricket.
Or, judging by the number of champagne and wine bottles in evidence, an evening of imbibing at the cricket.
A woman asked her companion: ‘Is that it?’ after they made it through the efficient security checks.
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The man, somewhat deflated by her less-than enthusiastic response upon entering the Home of Cricket, took a moment to comprehend what she meant, before replying with as much tact as possible: ‘No, that’s the Nursery End. That’s not the ground itself’.
She regarded the vast expanse of manicured green grass with a wry smile, before adding: ‘Well, I should hope so too.’
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Surrey in turquoise and blue won the toss, opting to bat against Middlesex sporting pink shirts.
The sides came out to Skinner and Baddiel’s Football’s Coming Home to reflect the mood of the country, many of who, here at Lord’s, appeared to be simply finding a way of killing time until England v Sweden on Saturday.
While the well-known tune may have sounded jarring to those who know this venue as a splendid Test and county cricket setting, the music did feel appropriate for a raucous T20 during the 2018 World Cup,
Plum Warner may have been turning in his grave but sport needs punters through the gates to survive.
T20 attracts crowds in large numbers and that can only be a good thing.
Even if many would have trouble telling the difference between a long hard slog and a Long Island Iced Tea.
However, one look at Pinky Corner under the Edrich Stand – soon to be redeveloped – dissuaded the overly cyncical.
For a large number of children played boisterously in the net provided, while an equally large number exuberently queued, waittng their turn.
It was refreshing to see the next generation embrace this most traditional of games, even if the format leaves traditionalists cold.
The game itself was absorbing enough to attract new punters, young and old, even without the gimmicks.
The 19-year-old Chertsey-born Will Jacks chipped back to Paul Stirling after 1.2 overs with the score on 12-1 as Ben Foakes joined Rory Burns.
It to was to prove to be an excellent partnership as they effortlessley eased to 59-2 before the talented Foakes, on a quick-fire 22 from 20 balls, lifted the ball to Nathan Sowter on 7.1 overs.
Six runs later Burns departed for 36 off 24 after Stirling trapped him lbw.
It was interesting to note the wicket was the same one Hampshire beat Kent on to lift the Royal London on Saturday, with the thinking presumably being that the home spinners would be able to extract an element of turn.
It was a good decision.
Middlesex were looking to replicate last summer’s close-run triumph over their south London rivals – when the Watford Wall, Steven Finn, smashed a ball from Ravi Rampaul through the leg side to take the home side to Middlesex to victory in the last but one over.
They took a fourth wicket with the score on 89 as Sam Curran was caught by Dawid Malaan at cover off the bowling of the impressive Stirling, who grabbed his third wicket of the evening, as the club’s player of the month for June carried on his good form to end with figures of 4-0-26-3.
The talented Ollie Pope strode to the wicket but it was the 36-year-old all-rounder Rikki Clarke who shone, reaching 50 before he was bowled by Tom Helm attempting a ramp shot with the score on 142-5 off 16.2 overs gone.
He was followed two runs later by Pope, who was run out by John Simpson attemping to increase the run rate from 8.5 an over to something approaching double figures.
Excellent bowling at the death by West Indian import Dwane Bravo restricted Surrey to 158-6 off their full complement of 20 overs.
Captain Malan was the first home batsman to be out, after he skied a catch to Jade Dernbach off the bowling of Clark at mid off for a stodgy two runs off seven balls with the score on 15.
Stirling was joined at the crease by Nick Gubbins as the pair effortlessly moved the score onto 88 until the wily Gareth Batty lured the powerful Northern Irishman into lifting the ball into Pope’s hands at deep midwicket.
Stirling’s innings consisted of ten fours and two sixes, featuring a number of lusty blows including a wonderful, perfectly-timed drive through the covers off Dernbach.
There was still little to indicate the collapse that was about to happen when two wickets became three as the evergreen Batty had Gubbins trapped lbw for 13 off 16 with Middlesex still on 88.
Bravo was next to fall as he skied a catch to Scott Borthwick off Morne Morkel for a single off two balls – making it three wickets to fall for a single run as the whole shape of the game changed in a matter of moments.
4-89 off 10.2 became 5-89 when Steve Eskinazi was caught by Jacks off Morkel to complete an incredible passage of play that firmly swung the match in Surrey’s favour after the home side looked to be coasting to victory.
Hilton Cartwright and John Simpson moved the score onto 123 before wicketkeeper Simpson fell to Dernbach on the rope off the bowling of Clarke for 13 off 11 to become the sixth wicket to fall with 36 still required.
However, Cartwright and James Fuller showed nerves of steel as they guided the home side to within a whisker of victory with a mix of verve, discipline and luck before Cartwright was caught in the deep by Pope off the bowling of Sam Curran with two required.
It was left to Fuller to slam home the winning runs as Middlesex made it home by three wickets to beat their London rivals.
As the huge crowd of 27,259 gradually departed, with many singing Football’s Coming Home, as they stumbled to the exits it was hard to tell how many would actually remember the result in the morning – as this sporting equivalent of popcorn sated appetites for one night only.
Which is precisely the point of T20.