Gloucestershire win by 5 wickets

A stunning unbeaten sixth-wicket 192-run partnership by Ian Cockbain and Benny Howell earned Gloucestershire an improbable victory over Middlesex with five balls and five wickets to spare at Lord’s. Having slumped to 65-5, chasing 257 to win, Gloucestershire looked like suffering their second defeat in as many Royal London Cup matches. But Cockbain, who finished with 108 not out from 123 balls, and Howell (86 not out off 71 balls), chased down the target with a mixture of quick singles and big hits. Cockbain finished the match in style, thumping a driven six over extra cover.

Middlesex had also been indebted to a middle-innings partnership, that of 111 by Adam Voges (81) and Toby Roland-Jones (65), but unlike Cockbain and Howell they were unable to bat through the innings.  

Middlesex, having elected to bat, had been reduced to 114-6 by Liam Norwell. The in-form 25-year-old, bowling his allotted ten from the start, picked up his fourth five-for of this nascent season for 36 runs. Having ended Paul Stirling’s opening salvo (26 from 22 balls) he dismissed a quartet of left-handers in succession. On a used pitch under overcast conditions he had four players caught at the wicket or in the slips, and bowled John Simpson behind his legs. However, after Norwell took his sweater, with the hosts 97-5, Voges rebuilt the innings. The Australian received good support from Roland-Jones and with Steve Finn adding some lusty late blows Middlesex reached 256-9.

A tight opening spell by Tom Helm, picking up Phil Mustard and conceding 13 runs off eight overs, restrained the start of Gloucestershire’s reply. When Roland-Jones took the key wicket of Klinger (30), prompting a clatter of wickets, Middlesex seemed set for victory. But Howell and Cockbain steadied the innings then began bringing down the required rate. Howell launched a trio of sixes high into the Mound Stand, unnerving the executive box inhabitants, then Cockbain weighed in with some thunderous straight hits. By the end there was nothing Middlesex could do to staunch the flow of runs.

There was a minor scare for Middlesex and England when Finn went to ground after what looked an innocuous piece of fielding. After a few minutes treatment the pace bowler walked gingerly off the field. At that stage he had bowled five overs which, while not troubling the batsmen, appeared to have been delivered without difficulty. Finn, had ‘jarred his knee’ and was able to return and bowl after a few overs absence.