Middlesex maintained their interest in an unlikely treble with a dramatic victory against Essex in the Royal London One-Day Cup at Lord’s. Defending 219-8 they looked to be heading for defeat when Essex reached 100-1 in the 22nd over. However, with boundary-hitting increasingly difficult they squeezed the life from the visitors’ innings to win by four runs.
Nick Browne launched the Essex innings with a flurry of fours on his way to 79 in 94 balls but his team-mates were unable to build on the platform. Toby Roland-Jones took 4-40 and James Franklin 3-25 as Essex, who would have booked a home quarter-final with a win, were restricted to 215-9.
Middlesex, already in the quarter-finals of the NatWest T20 Blast and leading the Specsavers County Championship, now need to beat Surrey at Lord’s on Tuesday and hope other results go their way. Essex need a win at Gloucestershire the same day to secure their last-eight place.
Skipper Franklin top-scored for Middlesex with 55. The Kiwi nursed into recovery an innings which seemed fatally damaged by a spell of three for three in 11 balls by teenage leg-spinner Dan Lawrence. The 19-year-old finished with three for 35, his best return in any form of senior cricket.
Middlesex had begun brightly with Paul Stirling driving over extra cover for six to the shorter Tavern boundary but the introduction of spin, in the form of Lawrence and Ashar Zaidi, then Tom Westley, slowed progress.
Between them the trio bowled 24 overs for 90 runs with Lawrence the pick. His trio of quick wickets reduced Middlesex from 87-1 to 97-4 with Test batsmen George Bailey and Robson among the victims. With Malan out and Eoin Morgan absent with a broken finger it was left to Franklin, with support from John Simpson (33), to rebuild.
Middlesex’s total seemed seemed to be insufficient as Brown launched into the Middlesex attack hitting eight boundaries off the first six overs. However, as with Middlesex, scoring then slowed especially when Browne, having edged between ‘keeper and slip on 55, then been dropped by Bailey on 69, ran out of luck to be bowled off an inside edge by Franklin.
With boundaries drying up the required run rate crept up and wickets fell often enough to keep Middlesex interested. Prime amongst these was Ravi Bopara, who scored 34 off 60 balls without a boundary. That thrust the responsibility on Ashar Zaidi whose big-hitting won the T20 match between the teams earlier this week. He needed 11 of the last over, bowled by Franklin, but, to Middlesex delight, was leg before first ball.