GLOUCESTERSHIRE WON BY 4 WICKETS: MIDDLESEX 159-9; GLOUCS 163-6
There were no fireworks on his Middlesex debut from Brendon McCullum as Gloucestershire overhauled a target of 160 with a ball to spare in the gloom at Northwood to claim their first win in the NatWest T20 Blast South Group. The former New Zealand captain, who made a competition best 158 for Warwickshire last season, was out in the first over for six while England captain Eoin Morgan made 13.
Half-centuries from Paul Stirling and Adam Voges took their side to 159 for 9 and Gloucestershire seemed to be up against it when Toby Roland-Jones removed their most experienced pair, Michael Klinger and Hamish Marshall, in his opening two overs. But Chris Dent (45), Ian Cockbain (40) and Benny Howell (37) kept them in the hunt and Gareth Roderick held his nerve in the final over, with nine runs needed. Harry Podmore conceded just two singles off the first three balls but Roderick carved the next delivery to the backward point boundary before hoisting him over mid-wicket for six to seal a four-wicket that maintained Gloucestershire’s unbeaten record in nine T20 matches against Middlesex.
The visitors had initially been revived by a stand of 65 in 8.1 overs between Dent and Cockbain before Cockbain failed to clear long on off James Franklin and Dent was smartly stumped by John Simpson in the 16th over. Howell, who had early taken 2 for 23, contributed 37 off 25 balls and although Jack Taylor fell in the penultimate over for 14 from ten balls, Roderick held his nerve.
The crowd had come hoping to see McCullum, beginning a stint with a fourth different county, fire but having muscled Graeme van Burren’s left-arm spin over the long on boundary he mis-timed an attempted pull off the next ball to give the bowler an easy return catch.
Skipper Dawid Malan fell in the next over to a well-judged catch by Klinger, running across from slip, off a top edge but from an unpromising 9 for 2 Stirling led a recovery. He added 43 with Morgan who cleared the ropes off left-arm spinner Tom Smith but was held at long off in the eighth over off Benny Howell.
Stirling and Voges then put on 61 in the most productive partnership of the innings before Stirling, who had just hit his third six over long on, top edged the next ball and was caught behind for 60 from 43 balls, which also included five fours. Five wickets fell in the remaining four overs with Australian Andrew Tye, on his Gloucestershire debut, one of three bowlers to pick up two wickets.
Voges finished with an unbeaten 51 from 40 balls. Klinger, who scored 654 runs in last season’s competition was yorked by the impressive Roland-Jones for a duck before Morgan held a well-judged catch at backward point in his next over to remove Marshall for ten. With the light fading the odds seemed to be in Middlesex’s favour but it was the visitors who produced a perfectly-paced run chase.