An explosive partnership of 105 in 58 balls between Varun Chopra and Dan Lawrence led Essex to victory over Middlesex at Lord’s in the final Vitality T20 Blast fixture there this season, as the visitors chased down 21, clinching victory in the final over for the loss of only four wickets.
Both men hit half centuries and their hard hitting and boundary-finding during the middle overs broke the back of what looked at first glance a really tricky run-chase.
Both men judged their innings perfectly and, even though neither was there at the finish, their efforts had paved the way for the experienced Ravi Bopara and the flamboyant Ashar Zaidi to finish things off with four balls to spare.
Lawrence’s effort was particularly spectacular, his 86 from 46 balls featuring four maximums and once again showcasing his exorbitant talent as a clean, powerful striker of the ball. Incredibly, this victory was only the visitors’ second of their entire Blast campaign – having just chased 211 down with relative ease, they may well think this should have been a more regular occurrence over the last month or so.
Middlesex did have their share of chances throughout the 20 overs, with two outfield catches going down that definitely fell into the category of ‘you see them taken, in this day and age’. Their ground fielding was also sloppy, as was the number of extras they conceded in the final few overs. It frankly summed up nicely what has been another disappointing campaign in the shortest format of the game for them – with the number of experienced campaigners they have at their disposal, they should be doing much better.
The fact that Essex had what looked like a near-insurmountable mountain to climb during their run-chase was mostly due to Middlesex’s Irish duo. Middlesex smacked 15 maximums in their 20 overs, with eight of those sixes coming off the bat of Eoin Morgan. It was the England limited-overs skippers’ knock of 77 from just 38 deliveries that gave the home sides innings the turbo boost it needed in order to go past 200.
Morgan found the short boundaries square on both sides of the wicket particularly to his liking, and at one point hoicked three enormous leg-side sixes in one over off the unfortunate Paul Walter. England’s selectors will surely have been looking on approvingly – this is probably Morgan’s last limited-overs knock before the upcoming tour to Sri Lanka.
Morgan it was who finished things off with a bang for the home side, but it was Paul Stirling who had lit the initial blue (or in their case pink) touchpaper. His 78 from 52 balls gave Middlesex momentum in the opening overs.
Stirling at one point looked odds on for a century as he displayed his immense power and timing repeatedly, and while his was still an excellent innings, that failure to convert may in the end have cost the home side dearly.
Both sides, then, have plenty to reflect on from their Blast campaigns, and no doubt plenty to put in the back of their minds for next season. Deep down, both will know they could have done a whole lot better.