T20: Middlesex suffer loss to Sharks on south coast
- Credit: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo
Sussex Sharks strengthened their grip on the South Group in the Vitality Blast after easing to a four-wicket wicket win over Middlesex on Friday night.
A sold-out 6,000 crowd at Hove saw third-placed Middlesex recover from 40-5 to 127-6 with Ollie Robinson taking 4-13.
And despite losing two wickets in the power-play Sussex sealed their victory with 22 balls to spare.
It was their sixth win in eight games with one match washed out and the other tied and means they have opened up a two-point lead at the top of the South Group.
Australian Alex Carey, who was dropped at third man by Tom Helm off Steven Finn on 20, top-scored with 32 while skipper Luke Wright and David Wiese both made 26 with Wiese smashing two leg-side sixes, one of which cleared the main scoreboard, off Finn. Delray Rawlins cleared the ropes off Helm to win the game.
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Middlesex were without Eoin Morgan, who has a sore back, and AB De Villiers, who has returned to South Africa after playing in their first seven games, and they never really recovered after a terrible power-play which ended with them reeling on 28-4.
Rawlins held a well-judged catch on the mid-wicket boundary to remove Paul Stirling (6) in Chris Jordan's first over before Robinson, benefitting from some seam movement on a sticky pitch, picked up three wickets including two in his third over on his way to career-best figures.
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Dan Lincoln played on for a duck, Dawid Malan (7) inside-edged to wicketkeeper Carey and John Simpson (0) was caught at short fine-leg after gloving Robinson's short ball.
Steve Eskinazi and George Scott took the score to 40 when Scott (6) was leg before playing across the line in the ninth over to give Briggs, who conceded just 16 runs in his four overs, a deserved wicket.
Middlesex were in danger of being bowled out but Eskinazi and Toby Roland-Jones, who was dropped on seven and nine, consolidated before pushing the accelerator in the final five overs as they added 76 off 57 balls with Eskinazi lodging his fifth T20 half-century.
Roland-Jones supported him well with 40 off 34 balls including two fours and two sixes before Robinson yorked him in the penultimate over to claim his fourth wicket. Eskinazi finished on 57 not out from 48 balls with six boundaries.
The visitors needed early wickets and soon had Sussex 15-2 as Phil Salt was superbly caught on the run by Nathan Sowter at deep mid-wicket and Laurie Evans (8) edged Mujeeb Ur Rahman to slip.
Wright (26) looked in good order until he mis-timed a drive and was taken at mid-off but Middlesex simply didn't have enough runs to defend.
Eskinazi said: "If we had got one or two more wickets in their power-play we could have put ourselves in a strong position but in the end we didn't have enough runs.
"We had a big game at Lord's against Surrey in front of a record crowd and getting straight on a coach was a bit of a comedown but we're not making excuses, if we had played our best cricket we could have won.
"It's very disappointing but we're still in a nice position in the group. Confidence is still high and if we can bounce back against Gloucestershire on Sunday we will still be well placed in the top three."
Turning Point: Two power-play wickets in three balls from Ollie Robinson put Middlesex under pressure straight away and they never really recovered.
Shot of the Match: Alex Carey slammed a perfectly good-length ball from Steve Finn back down the pitch for six.
Unsung hero: Danny Briggs was outstanding again. The left-arm spinner conceded just two runs in the first over and finished with 1-16 without conceding a boundary.
Up next: Middlesex return to Radlett on Sunday for a sold-out home game against Gloucestershire. Sussex are next in action at the Kia Oval next Thursday when they face Surrey.