An unbeaten century from opener Dawid Malan gave Middlesex their second 200+ score in succession and a 42-run victory over Sussex at Hove.
Malan racked up 115 from just 64 balls as part of an opening partnership of 187 within 17 overs alongside Paul Stirling, with the visitors racking up 221/2 by the time the Sussex bowlers were spared for the evening.
Malan exploited all parts of Hove, with 14 fours and three maximums as he carried his bat through the innings, with all of the Sharks bowlers going for at least ten runs per over in an entertaining evening on the South coast. Malan was not alone in his extravagance, however, with Stirling striking 88 runs at a higher strike rate than his opening partner, as Middlesex made their highest total in the format.
It took until the 101st ball of the innings for Sussex to get their breakthrough, and like the anecdotal London buses, two wickets came at once. Stirling was the first to go, two shy of his best T20 score as he was bowled by Ollie Robinson, before the same bowler claimed the scalp of Eoin Morgan from the very next ball as the Irish international failed to follow up his half-century against Kent the previous day.
Sussex boasted Chris Jordan in their line-up after the fast bowler was left out by England, but even he was powerless to the onslaught of Malan, who took four boundaries in the over from the 26-year old.
The wickets of Stirling and Morgan proved to be the only successes the Sharks would bite, with Malan bringing up three figures with a two off Robinson in the 19th over as the visitors closed on an impressive 221 for two.
Sussex’s reply began adventurously, the only way it could, as Luke Wright found the boundary, despite Chris Nash falling to Kyle Abbott – one of five wickets for the South African – and Mahela Jayawardene departing while Wright watched on helplessly from the non-striker’s end.
In truth, Wright struggled for a partner with Harry Finch and Craig Cachopa also falling cheaply before the former England all-rounder took 18 runs off James Franklin’s third over, the 13th, to keep a glimmer of hope alight for the Sharks. By this stage, Jordan had joined his skipper at the crease, playing in his natural attacking style to keep Hove excited with the ever-continous run-fest for a Friday night feast.
Once the 16th over had been completed, Wright had 91 to his name from just 46 balls with Jordan on 35. Six balls later and they were both in the pavilion with no runs added to the Sussex total.
Abbott, one of South Africa’s leading prospects, killed a game with a fraction of life remaining with a wicket maiden – close to unheard of in T20 cricket, nevermind the 17th over of a run chase – including the two set batsmen in two deliveries, a feat he once again repeated in the 19th over with Stefan Piolet and Tymal Mills the victims on the second occasion.
Ultimately, Sussex came up short. They were always going to, but in Luke Wright the Sharks found a man to get them close, with his eight fours and five sixes plentiful entertainment for the Hove crowd despite the result. Who needs franchises, eh?