Matt Roller from Lord’s
On the day of the United Kingdom’s EU Referendum, those who were tempted to leave Lord’s during the persistent rain were rewarded for their decision to remain, as Middlesex and Somerset played out a thrilling nine-over-a-side clash at the Home of Cricket.
Chasing 93 to win after Dawid Malan’s unbeaten fifty, Somerset kept the required run-rate in check, but lost regular wickets, and failed to build any meaningful partnerships throughout to fall just four runs short.
Middlesex Edge Nine-Over Thriller
Middlesex started well after losing the toss. Despite bowling to a 6:3 off-side field, Tim Groenewald strayed to leg far too often and was punished by Dawid Malan, who crashed a four and two sixes to leave the hosts 21 without loss.
However, the young seam trio of Lewis Gregory and the Overton twins were sharp with the ball, and Brendon McCullum, in his last game for Middlesex, never looked comfortable at the crease in his eight-ball stay.
The Overtons were both alert in the field too, with Craig pulling off a fantastic diving stop at long-off and Jamie taking a diving catch at mid-wicket to dismiss Paul Stirling.
The spin pair of Max Waller and Roelof van der Merwe ended with identical figures of one wicket for four runs, and after six overs, Somerset were firmly on top with Middlesex 43/3.
A cameo from John Simpson, who ended 26 not out from twelve deliveries, helped the resurgent hosts to punish some poor Somerset death bowling, and captain Dawid Malan hit fifteen off Jamie Overton’s wayward final over to reach an unbeaten fifty in 28 balls.
Middlesex batted well to score 49 runs in the final three overs, but Somerset will feel as though they might have kept the hosts to ten runs fewer; questions will be asked as to whether Waller should have been given another over.
In reply, Somerset started reasonably, reaching 23/0 after two overs thanks to three Jim Allenby boundaries. However, James Fuller pegged them back in the last of the three powerplay overs by taking the wickets of both opening batsmen.
Allenby spooned a catch to Paul Stirling at cover, and Myburgh was dismissed in somewhat controversial circumstances. Steven Finn took a spectacular diving catch at long-on running back, but the diminutive opener stuck around, as he questioned whether Middlesex had the required number of men within the thirty-yard circle.
Then, at the start of the fourth over, Paul Stirling dismissed Somerset’s only overseas player, Mahela Jayawardene, with an unbelievable grab at backward point. The visitors had lost three wickets for one run, and were in a state of complete disarray as Lewis Gregory walked to the crease.
Peter Trego, whose batting form has been more evident in the County Championship this season than in the white-ball game, carved a couple of boundaries off James Franklin’s bowling to put Somerset where they needed to be in terms of run-rate, despite the setback of losing early wickets, at 43/3 after four overs.
Maverick leg-spinner Nathan Sowter removed Trego with a googly which beat him all ends up to put Middlesex in the ascendency at the half-way point of the innings, but with the capable pair of Gregory and van der Merwe at the crease, the game was still well within Somerset’s reach.
Somerset continued to find the boundary with ease, as Gregory launched a straight four off Sowter, and van der Merwe scooped a Franklin delivery towards the Warner Stand. With 29 to win from 18 balls, the game was theirs to lose.
But Middlesex kept on taking wickets to peg them back: Gregory was caught at long-on by McCullum off Toby Roland-Jones’ bowling to bring Jamie Overton to the crease, and the tall seamer conceded just five from the seventh over of the chase.
Van der Merwe launched an expansive shot over cover for six to leave eighteen needed from ten deliveries, and Somerset looked favourites, but James Fuller kept his nerve to leave the visitors needing thirteen runs from the final over of the innings.
Trust in Finn
Steven Finn, after conceding fourteen in his first over of the innings, was the man entrusted with the ball, and only went for two runs off the first two deliveries of the over. Overton knew he needed a boundary, and was caught at long-on by Brendon McCullum looking for a blow to seal the game. There was more drama as the umpires checked for a no-ball, but Finn had stayed behind the line.
Van der Merwe was caught-and-bowled off a waist-high full toss, to leave eight needed off three, and Craig Overton carved a leg-side full-toss to deep square meaning six were needed off two.
Finn kept his nerve off the penultimate delivery with a wide yorker that Overton missed, and off the final ball, the all-rounder could only carve to cover for a single.
What it Means for Qualification
It was a disappointing loss for the visitors, who will look at their death bowling as an area which requires improvement. They now need to win at least three of their final six group games to hold any realistic chance of qualification for the quarter-finals.
Middlesex, meanwhile, have a real opportunity to reach the knock-out stages for the first time since they won the competition in 2008; they are just three points from the top of the group, and one behind Gloucestershire in fourth.