Natwest T20 Blast: Middlesex aiming for last-eight spot
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Middlesex go to Cardiff on Friday night knowing that victory over Glamorgan could see them qualify for the quarter-finals of this season’s NatWest T20 Blast.
That might appear to represent an astonishing piece of larceny, for they were bottom of the south group table earlier in the week.
That was before their 61-run victory over Gloucestershire at Uxbridge on Tuesday evening rocketed them up to third place.
The exceptional competitiveness of the competition, together with a number of rain-hit matches, leaves a cluster of counties bunched together like middle-distance runners approaching the bell.
“It’s an amazing group,” said Daniel Vettori, Middlesex’s T20 coach. “Now our season is on the line. We haven’t won a game away from home yet, and now we have the chance to put it all together against a very good Glamorgan team.
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“It won’t be easy. The good T20 teams around the world are led, generally, by a strong batting unit. Colin Ingram has been fantastic for Glamorgan this year. He will be one of the key wickets.”
The win over Gloucestershire, which also boosted the team’s net run rate, was an outstanding performance.
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Their score of 161-5 looked ordinary on a traditionally fast-scoring ground, but the pitch was not straightforward, and the outfield was slower than usual.
Vettori added: “At Uxbridge I thought the guys were exceptional in the way they assessed the wicket. It was a really tough pitch and 161 was a great score.”
It was the bowling, however, and the top three of Tim Southee, Steve Finn and Tom Helm in particular, that was truly memorable.
“We have bowled exceptionally well all year,” said Vettori. “And at Uxbridge our top three seamers were outstanding and put real pressure on Gloucestershire. When you get a team 25-5 you generally win the game.”
Finn, who produced career-best figures of 4-24, said: “I just hope we can put on the same performance in Cardiff. I thought we bowled brilliantly as a unit, as well as we’ve ever bowled.”
Middlesex captain Eoin Morgan can’t remember anything quite like this, adding: “I can’t recall a T20 competition where it’s been so tightly knit going into the final round.
“But this is the best way to go through to the latter stages, if we do go through. You don’t want to peak too early in any tournament.
“The teams that often win tournaments are those that have sneaked through after slowly building confidence in the latter stages.
“Now we’ve got to take this confidence to Cardiff and apply ourselves on that wicket. It could really be us at the end of the day.
“This is one of our best T20 squads. We’ve got a huge staff, with strength in depth, and we’ve needed that this year, with Test calls and ‘Finny’ being on stand-by. And there have been injuries. So we’ve needed that depth.”