When you turn up to play at Lord’s, knowing it’s going to be a packed house, you want everything to go right for you, and for The Eagles skipper Ryan Ten Doscarte the evening started well, he won the toss and elected to field.
After the first over, where overseas superstar Mohammed Amir conceded just two runs, it looked a very good decision. Five overs later as the power play finished with Middlesex on 71, for the loss of just Nick Gubbings caught well in the deep by Amir off Matthew Dixon, things were not going so well.
The main aggressor was former New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum, who brought up his 50 off the last ball of the power play – a 50 that included six 4s and four 6s. One of those sixes was scored with a flat batted slap over cover, which brought a collective ooohhhh from the sold out crowd at Lord’s.
When McCullum did fall, holing out to Simon Harmer off the bowling of Ravi Bopara, he had scored 63 runs of 28 balls, including five 6s and 6 4s, scored with a brutal elegance that was irresistible to watch. It didn’t matter where the bowlers put it, McCullum put it to the boundary.
If Essex fans thought they could breathe a sigh of relief with the departure of the Kiwi, they were wrong. The back of McCullum brought the front of Eoin Morgan, England’s white ball captain, and a partnership between him and John Simpson that saw them add 69 runs in seven overs, before Simpson fell to Daniel Lawrence, stumped by the always-brilliant James Foster for 51.
As every cricketer knows, and shouts, as they play, “one brings two”; and Simpson’s one brought the two of Scott, caught behind two balls later. This a relative period of calm saw them add just 17 more runs and the further loss of Morgan, bowled by Lawrence trying to up the scoring rate. It was a wicket that saw Lawrence claim his best ever T20 bowling figures, 3 for 21, and the only bowler who went at fewer than six an over.
If Essex fans thought things were starting to go their way again, they were wrong. As they had to watch the 20th over bowled by Matt Dixon go for 26 runs, including three huge sixes, setting Essex 204 to win.
If everything was going wrong for Essex, then of course everything was going right for Middlesex and this didn’t change in the second half of the game. Faced with a mammoth run chase, Essex had to be positive and he who lives by the sword dies by the sword. Sadly for Essex, their batsmen fell on their swords at regular intervals throughout the first nine overs, putting the target beyond them.
There were bright spots for Essex, though. Daniel Lawrence, who I believe will play for England in the future, hit some beautiful shots including a flick off his legs for six off Steven Finn, which even the bowler applauded. The wickets were shared about in the first nine overs; the catches, however, were not – with Morgan claiming four of the five catches all at backward point.
James Foster and Paul Walter came together in the ninth over, playing with freedom and threatening to get Essex back into the game. Foster brought up his 50 off 23 balls with five 4s and two 6s, but the next ball Walter holed out and broke the partnership. It all but ended the glimmer of hope Essex had.
When Foster fell two balls later, and Amir the very next ball, that glimmer was totally extinguished, leaving Essex on 125 for 9 at the end of the 15th over.
Essex were finally put out of their misery in the 17th over when Tom Helm took the fifth of his five wickets, bowling Mathew Dixon and achieving the best figures by a Middlesex bowler in T20 cricket – 5 for 11 from 3.2 overs and securing a win for Middlesex by 72 runs. This brings them level with Essex, on seven points, and reignites their Natwest T20 Blast campaign.