Despite an enthralling contest at Trent Bridge, a good number of spectators took to the bank at Arundel Castle Cricket Club for the Second XI Twenty20 Finals Day. Middlesex were put in by Durham in the first semi-final of the day. Captain John Simpson opened the innings alongside Sam Robson but was dismissed with only 5 on the board. Young Nick Gubbins found the middle of the bat early on and made good use of the fielding restrictions in the first 6 overs along with Robson to put on a fifty partnership.
Durham turned to spin in an attempt to stem the flow of runs but Gubbins struck three consecutive boundaries off the first three balls of Max Morely’s spell. With Gubbins on 49 and moving up the gears, Morely found some turn to catch the leading edge and have the Middlesex batsman caught at short cover. New batsman Balbirnie edged behind to the wicket-keeper off Arshad in the following over to slow Middlesex’s progress.
After briefly consolidating, Robson looked to accelerate the scoring as he cut the medium pacers to the point boundary. However Morely struck again when Robson holed out to long-on before ever truly unleashing. Ryan Higgins and Cameron Steel ran well in an attempt to swing momentum back in Middlesex’s favour. Higgins unveiled the ‘ramp’ to find the rope with fine leg and third man up in the circle. Sensing the opportunity to hit out, Higgins went aerial and cleared the boundary 3 times in quick succession, once being dropped over the rope at long-off. More innovation from Higgins in the form of a dab to the third man boundary saw Middlesex take 30 runs from overs 17 and 18.
Despite Higgins losing his off-stump to a slower ball from Arshad, Middlesex added 11 more runs from over 19. A tight final over from Andy Ireland saw Middlesex lose the wickets of Wilkin and Helm and the addition of only 4 runs. Still, 164-7 was a competitive total.
The sun came out for the start of Durham’s innings as Tom Helm and Harry Podmore opened up from the Castle end and Park end respectively. The Durham batsmen latched on to anything short with successful pull and hook shots moving on to 40-0 off the first 4 overs. Helm was replaced by Arif and soon after the impulsive puller Clark was caught at short fine-leg by Podmore. Similarly to Middlesex’s innings, Durham lost a second wicket to the first over of spin when Cameron Steel had Durham’s opener stumped off a leg-side wide. In his second over Steel had Arshad caught superbly at deep mid-wicket by Gubbins who tumbled only inches inside the rope. At the halfway stage Middlesex had reined Durham back from their explosive start to 73-3.
Usman Arif bowled a sharp spell and nearly bounced out a second Durham batsman but Freddie Fairhead could not hold on after a full length dive at deep square-leg. Simpson brought on Fairhead at the Park end and his off-spin immediately earned a wicket as he clung on to a sharp caught and bowled chance. Fairhead then took three more wickets to dull Durham’s chase. Simpson stumped Poynter after he wandered down the track and Fairhead claimed a second caught and bowled before Gubbins held on to his second skier of the day in the deep. Steel and Fairhead took 6 wickets between them in the middle overs and cost only 27 runs off their combined 7 overs.
Tom Helm came back on at the death and took two more wickets to confirm victory as Durham ended 135-9. Middlesex won by 29 runs and advanced to the final.
The final saw London rivals Surrey and Middlesex meet in a close contest. Surrey’s Tom Jewell won the toss and elected to bat. The first over was an eventful one as Helm sent down a wide, a bouncer that Jason Roy pulled for four and then a good length ball that seamed enough to catch Roy’s edge. Sam Robson took a comfortable catch at slip. Glenn Maxwell then announced himself at the crease by crashing a boundary off the back-foot through point. 15-1 off the first over.
Harry Podmore bowled the second over and dismissed Sibley in similar fashion to Roy when Robson caught another edge at slip. Podmore then went past Gary Wilson’s edge with four consecutive deliveries to complete a wicket-maiden. Helm then compounded Middlesex’s good start by having the IPL’s million pound man, Glenn Maxwell caught athletically at backward point by Higgins to reduce Surrey to 17-3.
Wilson and Patel led a Surrey counter-attack against the Middlesex seamers. Patel scored boundaries off both the front and back foot and on both sides of the wicket making it difficult for Simpson to set a field. Surrey had recovered to 48-3 by the end of the fielding restrictions. Middlesex looked to repeat the successful tactics employed against Durham with a double bowling change that saw spinners Steel and Fairhead come on. Gary Wilson reverse swept Fairhead twice with third man up to earn successive boundaries and looked assured at the crease. Cameron Steel made the vital breakthrough when Patel slogged a long-hop to Gubbins at deep-wicket who took his third good catch of the day to add to his faultless ground fielding.
In his next over Steel nearly had the prized wicket of Gary Wilson but was denied a caught and bowled after a collision with Agarwal at the non-striker’s end. Umpire Alex Wharf judged that Agarwal had no time to get out of the way nor any obligation to and so Wilson remained at the crease. Wilson seized the initiative after his reprisal by launching Fairhead back over the bowler’s head for six. The Surrey batsman saluted the spectators upon his fifty to add to his half-century from Surrey’s semi-final victory over Gloucestershire. Ryan Higgins eventually dismissed Wilson with a slower ball that went through to Simpson via an edge. It was a brave slower ball from Higgins having already seen one in the over picked and crashed for four. Surrey had a profitable 18th over taking 16 from it thanks to captain Tom Jewell’s clean striking. A manic last over saw Tom Helm take 3 wickets thanks to safe hands in every department of the outfield as Surrey looked to blast late runs. Helm ended with figures of 4-0-37-5. Surrey finished with 169-8 having recovered well from a poor start thanks to Wilson’s 57 and 40 from Agarwal.
The first three balls of Middlesex’s chase saw Jason Roy throw at the stumps from mid-wicket. Surrey buzzed in the field and celebrated wildly when Maxwell had Simpson trapped LBW. Former England bowler Jon Lewis kept up Surrey’s intense start by pinning Gubbins square on the chest with a short ball. The Middlesex batsman shook off the blow and swept Maxwell confidently for the first boundary of the innings. However the Australian ran out Sam Robson at the striker’s end after a great reaction off his own bowling. Middlesex suffered a similarly poor start to Surrey and were 15-2 off the first 4 overs. Then Gubbins and Balbirnie targeted Maxwell’s third over as a chance to kick-start Middlesex’s chase. With the field up, Gubbins and Balbirnie went aerial and gained 3 boundaries in four balls.
Nick Gubbins had been Middlesex’s best player of the day and he made sure his side ended the first six overs strongly by planting young Jack Winslade over his head for four. He then played a beautiful check drive off Tom Curran before slashing a cut to Shinwari at backward point. The Surrey fielder held on at the second attempt to dismiss Gubbins for 30. Balbirnie worked hard to keep Middlesex in the game by running hard and throwing his hands through anything over pitched. Ryan Higgins connected once with the ramp before miscommunication led to his run out with both Middlesex batsmen ending up at the same end. Steel struck a mighty six before being caught by Maxwell at long-on off Jewell’s bowling. Maxwell then finished his allotment by conceding only 4 runs and having Wilkin stumped for 4 with a flatter, faster delivery.
Meanwhile Balbirnie continued to strike the ball with confidence, undeterred by the flow of wickets. He swept in both the conventional manner and with innovative modifications which denied the spinner’s settling on a length. With 5 overs left Middlesex were 112-6 with Balbirnie and Fairhead at the crease chasing 170 to win. In the 17th over Balbirnie reached a half-century and Middlesex’s hopes of victory rested on his shoulders. He targeted a loose over from Jon Lewis in the 18th and took 17 from it with a pair of fours and a towering six on the leg-side. Early in the 19th Balbirnie carved Winslade over point for four more. The Surrey bowler was then subjected to a ramp from Fairhead to concede 10 off the over.
Middlesex required 16 to win off the last over to be bowled by senior bowler Jon Lewis. Singles off the first two balls of the over followed by a two made Surrey favourites. With 12 off 3 required Balbirnie found the rope to leave 8 required off 2. Lewis stuck to a length and Balbirnie could only smear it to the deep and was run out going for a necessary second run. He finished with 81 from 49 balls in what was undoubtedly the innings of the day. With 6 needed to bring the scores level, Lewis held his nerve and Surrey won by 6 runs.
Balbirnie did his best to see Middlesex home but ultimately Surrey had been allowed too many runs after being 17-3. Credit to Gary Wilson for the way he batted and to Glenn Maxwell for his bowling and fielding who starred for Surrey.
by Nick Elliott
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