Middlesex's NatWest T20 Blast group campaign reaches its climax down in Cardiff tomorrow evening, where they'll take on a Glamorgan side who have already qualified for the knockout stages of the competition.
In a crucial must-win clash, Middlesex will be looking to secure the victory that could see them join tomorrow's hosts in the quarter-final line up, with all four ties due to be played over the coming week.
Earlier this week Middlesex catapulted themselves from ninth place in the South Group to third spot, when they demolished Gloucestershire by 61 runs to record their first ever win against the West Country side, as Eoin Morgan led his side brilliantly.
In what was a must-win game for Middlesex, scoring 161 at Uxbridge Sports Club on Tuesday night looked to be about par on a surface that offered plenty of assistance to the bowlers, although no one could have predicted that just five overs into their reply the visitors would have five men back in the pavilion with only 25 runs on the board.
Career best T20 figures of 4 for 24 from Steven Finn, plus three wicket hauls from fellow seamers Tim Southee (3 for 9) and Tom Helm (3 for 14) finished the visitors off, with them eventually dismissed for a round 100. The victory took Middlesex's tally to twelve points from thirteen games played, equal on points with Sussex, Essex, Somerset, Surrey and Gloucestershire although crucially ahead of the pack on net run rate.
Middlesex's T20 Head Coach Daniel Vettori has talked of his frustration at the lack of consistency that the side has shown this term, and this was never better typified than with this superb win against Gloucestershire coming off the back of a disappointing performance by his side in their last outing at Essex the previous Friday night, which followed an impressive display and victory against Sussex just the night before at Lord's. If ever his side need to find that elusive consistency it's tomorrow night at Cardiff, when anything less than a victory for Middlesex will see their campaign come to a premature end.
Before that however, there are two crucial clashes in the South Group tonight that will significantly impact upon all sides' hopes of qualifying from such a tight group, as Surrey take on Gloucestershire at the Kia Oval and Essex entertain Kent at the Cloud FM County Ground in Chelmsford.
Wins for Surrey and Essex this evening would dent Middlesex's hopes significantly, as should both sides back up those wins with victories against Kent and Sussex respectively tomorrow night, then Middlesex's fate is sealed and irrespective of the result down in Cardiff Vettori's men will be unable to qualify.
All Middlesex can do is head to Cardiff with their sights set on securing the victory they need to give themselves a fighting chance, and then hope that results elsewhere fall in their favour. Anything like the kind of performance Middlesex served up against Gloucestershire on Tuesday will give them every chance of getting the result they need.
Glamorgan banked their own quarter final place last Sunday, when they beat Somerset at the Coopers Associates County Ground down in Taunton, where batting first Glamorgan posted 183 for 6 in their twenty overs, before holding their nerve with the ball to defend the total. In a nail-biting run chase Somerset went into the final over needing just eight runs to finish the game off, although managed just six, to finish on 182 for 6 in their allotted overs, two runs short of victory as Glamorgan claimed the points.
Whilst already assured of a place in the knockouts next week, Glamorgan will be looking to secure the back to back victory they need to guarantee themselves top spot in the group, so tomorrow night's clash promises to be an absolute thriller.
Middlesex head into the clash high in confidence after Tuesday's thumping win against Gloucestershire and name the following fourteen-man squad for the trip to Cardiff to take on Glamorgan...
Eoin Morgan (captain)
John Simpson (wicket-keeper)