Middlesex beat Surrey by 5 wickets.
A Lord’s crowd of 27,119, a record for a domestic Twenty20 match in England, saw Middlesex chase down Surrey’s 196 for 6 to complete NatWest T20 Blast victory by five wickets on an exhilarating evening of sixes, fours and short-form skills.
Spectators packing the stands on a balmy night were initially thrilled by Jason Roy and Aaron Finch, who smashed 50 and 78 respectively and put on 87 in just seven overs for Surrey’s first wicket.
But Surrey’s scoring rate dipped after they had reached 111 for two at the halfway mark, and 121 for two after eleven overs, and Middlesex’s top order were more than equal to an asking rate of just below ten runs an over.
George Bailey, the former Australia T20 captain, steered them home with 55 off 43 balls and featured in a fourth wicket stand of 67 in seven overs with John Simpson, who batted with equal fluency to score 43 off 26 balls with a six to mid wicket off Dominic Sibley’s leg spin and five fours.
And the innings was given huge early impetus by Paul Stirling, whose 34 from 16 balls included a six and six fours, and England’s one-day captain Eoin Morgan, who swung a full toss from Azhar Mahmood on to the roof of the Grand Stand in a rollicking 42 from 24 balls. Morgan dominated a third wicket partnership of 64 in 6.4 overs with Bailey before hitting a low full toss from Sibley to long on in the 11th over.
For Middlesex, who reached 200 for 5 from 19.1 overs to triumph with five balls to spare, it was a sixth South Group win to take them into third place and, on 13 points, puts them in with a good chance of quarter-final qualification with three games still to play. It was also their highest successful T20 chase. Surrey, by contrast, with only 10 points from 12 games, look out of contention for a last eight place.
The explosive start provided by Roy and Finch propelled Surrey to 80 without loss in the opening six-over powerplay and it was hitting of the highest quality by both internationals.
Roy set the tone for what was to follow by flipping the first two balls of the innings, bowled by Tim Murtagh, past short fine leg for fours. There was another boundary, whipped to mid wicket in that first over and Finch was off the mark when he hit his first ball for four, off James Fuller in the second over.
A huge six by Finch later in that over, driven over long off, meant that Surrey had plundered 29 runs from the first two overs. After four overs, the total was 52 for no wicket, with Roy taking an immediate liking to Harry Podmore in the young seamer’s opening over by swinging him away behind square leg for six.
Fuller struck a rare blow, literally, for the under-fire bowlers by skidding a sharp bouncer through Finch’s attempted pull and into the grille of his helmet. After a brief stoppage, while the Australian inspected the damage, there was revenge for the batsman when he drove Fuller high over long on for a powerful six.
Roy deposited Podmore over wide mid wicket for six with a pure pick-up and also slashed him to third man for his sixth four before falling to the first ball of the eighth over, Bailey pulling off a brilliant catch as he sprinted in from long off and dived forward to clutch a mishit lofted drive at James Franklin.
Steven Davies fell to Nathan Sowter’s leg spin for 5 and Rory Burns swung a full toss from Paul Stirling for six before top-edging a slog-sweep at Sowter and departing for 15.
South African all-rounder Chris Morris took a while to get into his stride, pulling the suffering Podmore for six to make himself feel better, while Finch produced an extraordinary left-handed drive for two off Sowter when initially switching round in the crease to get himself into position for a reverse-sweep. Next ball, a full toss from Sowter, was clubbed in more orthodox fashion for six.
With Podmore having to be withdrawn from the attack for bowling his second beamer of the innings, Ryan Higgins was asked to complete the 19th over and, after being driven sweetly for six by Morris, had the batsman caught on the mid wicket ropes for 25.
Two more wickets fell in the final over, bowled by Fuller, including Finch caught at long off and Sam Curran at short fine leg from a skied attempt at a ramp shot, preventing Surrey from topping the 200 mark that had looked a certainty during the first two thirds of the innings.
Stirling took two fours and six from an opening over by Curran costing 16 and two of the stocky Irishman’s offside boundaries were memorable strokes through square cover off Jade Dernbach, who had removed Nick Gubbins for 4 in the second over, and cracked through extra cover from a 91.2mph delivery by the pacy Morris.
After Stirling skied to short mid wicket, Morgan took charge while Bailey settled in with a reverse slap for four against Gareth Batty’s off spin and then a delightful late cut to the boundary off Mahmood.
Both Simpson, bowled by Mahmood, and Bailey, bowled by Dernbach, fell with the finishing line in sight but Higgins came in to reverse hit the first ball of the final over, from Batty, for the winning boundary.