Stirling century helps Middlesex to first win as holders Gloucestershire stumble yet...

Stirling century helps Middlesex to first win as holders Gloucestershire stumble yet again

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South Group: Middlesex 211-3 (Stirling 125*) beat Gloucestershire 254-8 (Marshall 74; Roland-Jones 3-36) by seven wickets, via D/L method

Gloucestershire’s hold on the Royal London One-Day Cup is distinctly shaky after a seven wicket defeat to Middlesex with 3.3 overs to spare in a rain-curtailed match at the Brightside Ground, Bristol.

It was Middlesex’s first win in the competition at the second attempt but for the hosts it was the third successive defeat. In reply to Gloucestershire’s below par 254-8 after 50 overs Middlesex scored 211-3 to achieve the Duckworth-Lewis adjusted target of 208 from 35 overs.

Middlesex’s success owed much to a belligerent 125 not out from the combative Paul Stirling who cashed in after having been put down at slip by Gloucestershire skipper Michael Klinger when on a single.

They were also indebted to a highly efficient bowling display led by seamer Toby Roland-Jones who took 3-36, and some excellent catching.

Middlesex won the toss and fielded. They soon tasted success, Chris Dent pushing Roland-Jones to short cover to be caught off a leading edge.

Klinger looked in good touch before he edged the same bowler to second slip when he had scored 20. Middlesex were restricting the home batters to just over four an over when Roland-Jones finished his excellent first spell of seven overs with 2-27.

Gareth Roderick built a solid stand with Hamish Marshall, who earlier announced his decision to leave Gloucestershire to return to his native New Zealand after nine years with the county, the young South African passing his 50 on 120-2 with half the allocation bowled.

Marshall followed Roderick to his half-century in the next over with runs coming much more freely than earlier against the spin of Ollie Rayner and Adam Voges.

Just as Gloucestershire looked to be establishing a base from which to reach a competitive total Roderick was caught in the first over of a second spell from young Middlesex seamer Tom Helm for 64 to make Gloucestershire 150-3 in the 29th over.

Ian Cockbain was run out after a mix up with Marshall, the second time in three matches he has suffered this fate, while in the same over Marshall holed out to Roland-Jones, a tame end to an excellent innings of 74.

At 183/5 after the Gloucestershire effort looked to be faltering.

Kieran Noema-Barnett and Benny Howell looked to get Gloucestershire back on track but after Howell hit Rayner over long-off for six he flat-batted James Fuller to short mid-wicket for 17. Noema-Barnett swept Rayner into the temporary stand at square leg (erected for the ODI later this month) but attempting to repeat the shot he missed and was stumped.

The return of Helm and Fuller to bowl the death overs accounted for Craig Miles shortly before the innings closed at 254-8.

That the Gloucestershire total was seeming under par was due to a slow pitch where the ball appeared not to be coming on to the bat and some excellent miserly Middlesex bowling.

The best bowler, in addition to Roland-Jones, was Fuller on his return to Bristol. He took 2-45 from his full allocation amply demonstrating that the Nevil Road side should regret his departure.

Gloucestershire started the defence of their total with some tight bowling from Norwell and Matt Taylor, the former unlucky not to capture Stirling’s wicket when he was dropped at second slip.

But soon after a light, but steady, rain started with Middlesex 17/0 in the seventh over. After the rain break the visitors’ target was revised to 208 from 35 overs.

When play resumed Stirling and Dawid Malan set about the Gloucestershire bowling with one eye on the D/L total as skies darkened.

Stirling reached his 50 from 44 balls but then, in the 14th over, Malan was caught at mid-wicket off Miles for 29 to make Middlesex 84-1.

Nick Gubbins joined Stirling and soon set about taking up where his fellow left-hander had left off: Scoring all round the wicket as Gloucestershire’s bowling and fielding became ragged.

Gubbins’ bright knock ended when he was caught in the deep for 37 off 30 balls attempting a seventh boundary at 156-2.

Meanwhile Stirling continued to plunder the home attack eventually reaching his 100 from 88 balls with 11 fours and three sixes. It was the ninth List A century by the Irishman in his typical swashbuckling style.

By the time Eoin Morgan was dismissed for ten it was virtually over, with Stirling and Voges seeing the London county home.

Middlesex will be pleased that their 50-over campaign is under way and derive confidence from a highly-competent all- round performance while Gloucestershire are left to reflect on a poor performance in a game where, in truth, they were completely outplayed.

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