Essex Eagles v Middlesex
NatWest T20 Blast - South Group
Brian Jeeves reporting from the Cloudfm County Ground, Chelmsford
Essex Eagles 172/9 (20.0 overs)
Middlesex 163/7 (20.0 overs)
Essex Eagles won by 9 runs
ESSEX EAGLES kept alive their slim hopes of qualifying for the NatWest T20 Blast finals day by seeing off Middlesex at Chelmsford to record only their fourth South Group victory of the campaign.
In form, Adam Wheater hit 43 off 21 deliveries, while Ravi Bopara and skipper Ryan ten Doeschate chipped in with 27 and 25 respectively as the host’s posted 172/9. Meanwhile, Nathan Sowter proved to be the pick of the Middlesex attack, taking 4/23, the Australian legbreak bowlers’ best figures in this the shortest form of the game. Tom Helm followed up his 5/11 against Essex at Lord’s a fortnight ago by snaring 2/29.
However, the Middlesex chase never really got going. Eoin Morgan top-scored with 37, while George Scott and John Simpson carried the fight hitting 30 and 30 as those around them fell relatively cheaply.
All-rounder Bopara impressed with the ball for Essex, finishing with figures of 2/24, while Mohammad Amir once again wooed the home crowd, taking 2/25 as Middlesex were reduced to 163/7 from their 20 overs.
Although qualification remains a tall order for Essex, this victory moved them off the bottom of the table into seventh pace, just four points behind Glamorgan in second.
Speaking after the match, Essex captain Ryan ten Doeschate said: “I certainly felt it was one of our better performances. There is no point in harping on about the close games we’ve lost, it would be a very different situation if we had won those close ones. But the younger lads are getting a bit more experience and to beat Middlesex like that is very rewarding.
“I still don’t feel we’re a million miles away, but when you come up against good teams and particularly good overseas players, sometimes those tiny moments of experience really count. A guy like Paul Walter will have learnt a lot this season and it’ll do him a power of good.”
Essex climbed off the bottom of the table and have an outside chance of reaching the quarter-finals. Ten Doeschate said: “To be honest we’ve got to win all three games. But the fact we’re still in it is more to do with the way the south division is panning out in terms of teams beating each other.
“Normally there is one team on three or four points at the bottom and that means someone else is on 15 or 16 points. This year everyone is bunched between 14 and 10, so we definitely are alive. While we have a mathematical chance we will always give it a go.
“The feeling is we’re going to have to win all three, but that would mean we’d have won five on the bounce – if you count the Hampshire and tonight’s results. It’s a nice challenge. But we know if we lose a match we’ll be out. I’d prefer to be on 16 points and not 10, of course, but we’ll just keep trucking and I know everyone will give absolutely everything.”
Essex restricted Middlesex to just 10 runs combined from overs 15, 16 and 17, and the captain said: “The bowlers, particularly Mo and Rav, were fantastic. And I’m super-pleased with Simon Harmer, he came to me and said, ‘I want to bowl this over’. It was either him or me who was going to bowl that [16th] over, but that changed my mind. That was a crucial over.
“But I must give a lot of credit to the batters, it wasn’t a typical Chelmsford wicket. The way they bowled and fielded I felt that was an above-par score. Wheats, Chopra and Ravi all batted well. It was decent all-round performance.”
Middlesex’s Nathan Sowter admitted his frustration despite claiming his best T20 figures, adding: “It was a disappointing night. The lads are quite upset. We thought we had a good chance of chasing that total. They got off to a flier and we pulled them back quite well.
“We still felt we were right in the match with five overs to go. We still needed 10 an over, but we’re happy with that and 10-12 off the last over. But they bowled extremely well. Those overs [14, 16 and 17] were the key passage of the game. We’ve talked about it. Hopefully moving on to Tuesday night we can pick it up.
“Thursday night against Glamorgan was an incredible night in front of a packed crowd at Lord’s, but to come here tonight, get ourselves into a good position to win the game and then lose was disappointing. We just got a little bit stuck in the middle and there were too many dot balls. We know our mistakes. We’ve had plenty of opportunities to fix it and we keep coming up a little bit short. But we’re not too far off – two wins to finish and hopefully, things will go our way. We’re still thinking positively. We just need to be better at what we’re doing.”
Of his own performance, he added: “It’s always nice to perform – but I like winning. It’s a downer after the positive of the other night. I was pleased with the way I bowled but disappointed we haven’t got the victory.
“I play to win it. I wouldn’t worry if I had none for 40 and we won the game. It’s nice to perform but you like to get the win to go with it. It’s really upsetting to be honest.”
Essex Eagles: AJA Wheater, V Chopra, DW Lawrence, RS Bopara, RN ten Doeschate*, Ashar Zaidi, JS Foster+, PI Walter, SR Harmer, Mohammad Amir, MW Dixon
Middlesex: SS Eskinazi, PR Stirling, JA Simpson+, EJG Morgan*, JEC Franklin, GFB Scott, RF Higgins, TG Southee, NA Sowter, TG Helm, TE Barber
Middlesex won the toss and elected to field
Points: Essex Eagles 2 Middlesex 0