With Eoin Morgan and Steve Finn returning from England duty and with Paul Stirling also returning from representing Ireland, Middlesex were possibly at their strongest for their Friends Life t20 match against Kent under the Canterbury floodlights.
The Panthers gave one of their best t20 performances for a long time when they defeated Kent by 48 runs after running-up their highest ever t20 total of 207-2. Joe Denly anchored the innings with 90 not out whilst Paul Stirling hit 63 off 37 balls and Eoin Morgan 36 off 18 balls.
Neil Dexter won the toss for the first time in the competition and the Panthers batted first on an excellent Canterbury wicket. The only run in the first over was a wide from Matt Davies but Paul Stirling hit Darren Stevens for successive fours in the second over of the innings. Stirling hit two further fours in Davies’ second over before Stirling hit Azhar Mahmood’s first delivery for six, over extra-cover.
Eighteen runs came from Matt Coles’ first over with Denly hitting him for three fours after his first ball went for five wides.Stirling then went into over-drive hitting Azhar Mahmood for a six and a four before a beamer from Mahmood went for six no-balls. Stirling hit the next four deliveries for four, two, four and four as he reached a 21 ball fifty (2 sixes & 8 fours) – a total of thirty runs came from the over as Middlesex ended the six over power-play on 81-0.
Adam Ball and James Tredwell slowed the scoring rate to a certain extent with the hundred coming up in the tenth over. Denly then hit Ball for a straight six and took two fours and a two off the remaining three deliveries of the over. It was Tredwell who eventually broke the stand when Stirling was caught at long-on by Coles for 63 (off 37 balls, 2 sixes & 9 fours) – the opening partnership of 127 being a record for Middlesex in t20 cricket.
Eoin Morgan joined Denly at the wicket and Denly reached a 38 ball fifty in the 13th over of the innings. Denly scored most of his runs with straight or cover drives whilst Morgan went the aerial route hitting Ball for a six and hitting Coles for two sixes in the penultimate over.
After scoring a two off the first ball of the final over, Morgan perished when he was caught at long-on for 36 but Denly hit Azhar Mahmood for two fours as Middlesex reached 207-2 from their twenty overs with Joe Denly finishing on 90 not out (off 66 balls, 1 six & 11 fours). Amid the carnage, James Tredwell had figures of 1-23 from 4 overs and Matt Davies 0-21 from 4 overs – Azhar Mahmood conceded 61 runs in his four overs.
Northeast and Billings began the Kent reply but they could only manage three singles off the opening over from Ollie Rayner and just one single off Steve Finn’s opening over. Only nineteen runs came off the first four overs but the pair hit three fours in Toby Roland-Jones’s second over and with eleven runs coming in Gareth Berg’s first over,Kent reached 47-0 after the six power-play overs.
Tom Smith missed a hard-struck return catch in the seventh over before the two Sam’s took eighteen runs off Ollie Rayner’s second over and a further fifteen runs in Smith’s second over although Toby Roland-Jones missed a chance on the long-on boundary. With six runs coming from Neil Dexter’s first over,Kent were still in the hunt at the halfway point on 89-0.
After a single off the first ball of Berg’s second over,Billings was caught by Neil Dexter at extra-cover for 43 (off 29 balls). Northeast reached an excellent 35 ball fifty in the same over (1 six & 5 fours) but Darren Stevens was out for a single when he gave Neil Dexter a return catch. Azhar Mahmood was missed by Denly at long-on in Paul Stirling’s first over and with Northeast took the hosts to 120-2 before Kent lost four wickets off successive balls.
Sam Northeast drove a Dexter delivery to long-on where Eoin Morgan took the catch to dismiss him for 60 (off 40 balls); the batsmen crossed and Azhar Mahmood (13) hit the next ball in exactly the same place and Morgan again obliged. Paul Stirling then had Matt Coles caught at backward point for a first ball duck and Blake was run out without facing a ball when Geraint Jones drove straight down the ground and Blake was beaten by Joe Denly’s throw to the bowler as they attempted a second run to leave Kent on 121-6 in the 15th over.
With the game lost, Geraint Jones and Brendan Nash pushed singles that were there for the taking before Jones pulled Roland-Jones for a six over mid-wicket. However, Jones was out to the following delivery when he was caught by Paul Stirling at long-off for 23. Nash and Ball took Kent to 159-7 at the end of their twenty overs as Middlesex won the match by 48 runs; Joe Denly was the Sky TV ‘man-of-the-match’.
Neil Dexter had figures of 3-22 from four overs whilst Steve Finn conceded just fifteen runs from his four overs.
Middlesex Panthers welcome back Eoin Morgan and Steven Finn for Wednesday's Friends Life T20 match against Kent at Canterbury.
Morgan and Finn will play their first T20 games for the club in this seasons tournament to give the Panthers an excellent chance of ending a run of two consecutive defeats. Middlesex need to win the game against Kent to retain any realistic hope of qualifying for this season's T20 Quarter-Finals.
It goes without saying that everyone at Middlesex is delighted to welcome the pair back. Morgan and Finn provide us with experience and quality, and it is hoped they make us a very competitive side under the floodlights in Canterbury. When you look at the team we are putting out, it is the sort of team, if you could field it for every game, that makes you wonder whether you would need to employ two overseas players.
The Panthers T20 campaign of 2012 has followed a similar trend, in that we have lost all five tosses and been invited to bowl first in each game. The opposition have posted a decent but far from huge total and we have only reached our target once despite being in reasonable positions in each run chase.
On Monday I attempted to work out exactly where we are going wrong. Looking on I have felt that we have bowled pretty well and, thankfully, the figures back that up. At the conclusion of Monday night's matches we were ninth out of 14 teams on average runs conceded in the first innings of games - four sides are yet to bowl first. Now that is not a bad effort for a relatively young side.
The issue is that our batsman have not posted big enough scores. It is not a coincidence that in the game won a batsman - Paul Stirling - scored 50+. In the other four games this has not been the case. So the challenge for us is for the bowlers to continue bowling well and at least one of our batsmen to pass fifty. If we can achieve these goals a second win should be achieved.
Sadly, the squad will change for Wednesday's game at Richmond but hopefully our England players will leave with Middlesex's spirits raised.
Middlesex CCC are pleased to announce the following 13-man squad to play against Kent Spitfires at Canterbury tomorrow, Tuesday 26 June. The match will be televised and is due to start at 7.10pm:
Neil Dexter (captain)
Middlesex's next home Friends Life t20 match takes place on Wednesday 27 June at Old Deer Park, Richmond against Hamphire Royals. Gates open at 4pm and the match starts at 5.30pm.
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