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Middlesex squeeze home by six runs in thrilling Royal London Cup finish

Middlesex squeeze home by six runs in thrilling Royal London Cup finish

Middlesex held their nerve to squeeze home by six runs in a thrilling Royal London Cup game at Emirates Old Trafford as Lancashire lost for the first time in the one-day competition despite a List A best 72 by Rob Jones.

The visitors won by six runs at Emirates Old Trafford to boost their top three hopes while Lancashire are second in  the Group 2 table on 7 points having played one more game than third-placed Worcestershire.

With 14 runs needed from the final over Ethan Bamber bowled a no ball that Danny Lamb managed to get to fine leg for four and the following ball was a wide.

But the bowler held his nerve to bowl Lamb from the next delivery to seal victory with Lancashire 251-9 but with Keaton Jennings unable to bat after suffering an earlier calf injury.

It was a valiant effort by Lamb, who hit 33 off 21 balls, and Tom Bailey (16 off 15 balls) with the pair bringing Lancashire right back in contention with a partnership of 47 off 28 balls over the closing overs.

But Bailey perished hitting out, caught by Martin Andersson at deep backward square off Luke Hollman (4-56) for 16 leaving 21 required off 12 balls.

Lamb got that down to 14 needed off the last but in a dramatic finish the visitors held on.

Chasing their target of 258 Lancashire quickly found themselves in early trouble on 20-2 after losing Josh Bohannon lbw to Bamber for 1 and Luke Wells mistiming a pull off James Harris to be caught by Bamber at mid-on for 8.

Jennings and Rob Jones rebuilt the innings with a good partnership of 63 that was progressing nicely until an injury to Jennings forced the batsman off the field four balls into the 20th over with Lancashire 80-2.

Jennings, who had just reverse swept Josh DeCaires for four to reach 38, collapsed after hobbling badly in completing a leg bye. After treatment to his right calf the left-hand batsman needed help to leave the field in obvious pain.

Jennings was replaced by Steven Croft, playing in his 150th List A game for the Red Rose, and the all-rounder was quickly into his stride, scoring at a run a ball with Lancashire reaching the halfway stage of their innings well placed on 110-2.

Middlesex fought back with some disciplined bowling, Thilan Walallawita bowling 10 excellent overs for 34 to help restrict the scoring with no boundaries conceded for nine overs until Jones cut Hollman to third man to reach his second one-day half-century from 78 balls with Lancashire 145-2 and needing 113 from 15 overs.

Croft departed for 41 after sweeping Hollman to DeCaires who took a great diving catch at deep backward square leg in the 38th over with 98 needed off 73 balls.

George Balderson hit two sixes before being stumped by Robbie White off Hollman for 18 attempting another big blow and Jones was caught by DeCaires at long off for 72 in similar circumstances two balls later.

George Lavelle quickly followed after pulling Bamber to Andersson at deep mid-wicket for 2 with Lancashire now 190-6 needing 68 from 40 balls.

Lamb thumped three sixes and Bailey one as the run rate climbed above ten runs per over but after Bailey was out, the visitors held on to clinch victory with four balls left.

 “We’re disappointed with the result but it was a great game of cricket,” said Assistant Head Coach Mark Chilton.

“I thought Danny did fantastic to bring us back in to it.”

“It was a difficult game to describe,” he added. “But I thought there were areas where we could learn from as an inexperienced team.

“We talk about taking the game deep sometimes but there’s the question of managing the run rate too.

“Historically when you are chasing here you don’t want that rate to get too high. We knew we could afford to let it get to eight/nine an over with the short boundary so we weren’t panicking too much.

“But I thought we could have managed the run rate through that middle period a little bit better and made our job in the last 10 overs that bit easier.”

“There are areas we can look at and think we can manage our risk a bit better through that phase of play and try and tick the scoreboard over at fives as opposed to threes and fours (an over).

“That accumulation makes your job in the last ten a bit easier. If we had been chasing 70 that would have been gettable. And I thought their leg spinner came back and bowled well,” he added.

Lancashire remain in a strong position in the group and Chilton pointed out: “It’s important to stress that.

“It’s been a disappointment to lose today but generally I think we’ve been going really well.

“There’s a lot to play for and the players are really working for each other.

“So when you get a result like this, you can really grow and learn from it.

“I think they are more than capable of winning this competition. Yes, it’s a little blip but I think there is a lot of good things going on with this group and the first three results has proved that. “

Bailey and Liam Hurt produced good opening spells after Middlesex won the toss but the only success came when De Caires drove loosely at Hurt in the 6th over to give Lamb a comfortable catch at mid-wicket having made 4.

Stephen Eskinazi and Sam Robson countered with a good partnership of 66 in 12 overs with Eskinazi moving fluently to reach 45 off 53 balls including a six over midwicket off Balderson in the 16th over.

But Eskinazi fell to a quite outstanding catch two overs later when he ramped a Balderson delivery towards fine leg where Lamb sprinted to his right before diving to complete a quite brilliant one-handed catch.

For good measure Lamb then claimed another great one-handed diving catch at backward short leg after Peter Handscomb top-edged a sweep off Jack Morley to leave Middlesex on 117-3 at the start of the 25th over.

Robson had made steady progress to reach 42 off 46 balls before becoming hampered by a hamstring problem that saw the batsman forced to continue with De Caires acting as his runner.

But undeterred Robson made light of his injury, going to his half-century from 54 balls but quickly forced to become the anchor-man as four wickets fell for 22 runs inside 5 overs.

Wells broke the 37-run partnership for the fourth wicket when White edged behind to Lavelle for 18 attempting to run the ball down to third man.

Bailey then returned to take three wickets in quick succession, including two in three balls, when Jack Davies edged behind for 7 and Hollman edged to Wells at first slip.

Robson, who had struck nine fours in progressing to 76 off just 80 balls, then hammered a Bailey delivery straight to Croft at gully with the Red Rose fielder requiring treatment off the field after taking the catch.

When Harris was bowled by Morley for 3 in the 41st over to leave Middlesex on 190-8 the visitor’s innings looked to be in danger of subsiding quickly.

But an excellent partnership of 43 between Andersson and Walallawita, who hit two sixes in his 18-ball innings of 29, pushed the visitors well past the two-hundred mark before Walallawita was yorked by Hurt.

Andersson finished unbeaten on 42 from 45 balls with Middlesex closing on 257 all out when Bamber was run out for 6 in the final over of the innings with 68 runs taken off the last ten overs.

How crucial those late runs were to prove.

Ken Grime
Photos: Barry Mitchell & Luke Adams

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