Sussex Sharks’ hopes of squeezing into the knockout stages of the NatWest T20 Blast improved after an easy six-wicket win over Middlesex Panthers at Hove.
Middlesex were bowled out for just 107 off the penultimate ball of their innings and opener Chris Nash led the Sharks home with an unbeaten 74, hitting James Harris for a straight six to seal victory off the first ball of the 17th over.
After losing five successive games, Sussex have now won their last two and in the ultra-competitive South Group will still fancy their chances of a top-four finish.
With just one win so far, the Panthers are out of contention and there were few highlights for them in this performance, apart from Ryan Higgins’ 31.
They lost two wickets in the power play with Joe Denly bowled by Lewis Hatchett in the second over via an inside edge before Eoin Morgan fell in the next to Jimmy Anyon, who got a ball to rise sharply and Morgan could only touch it to wicketkeeper Ben Brown.
Both Higgins and Dawid Malan were dropped as they put on 25 for the third wicket before leg-spinner Will Beer made an immediate impression when he got his first ball to turn out of the rough and knock back Malan’s leg stump.
Thereafter, Middlesex lost wickets regularly. The dangerous Dan Christian was leg before to Steffan Piolet’s second ball while Beer finished with 3 for 23 after Neil Dexter drove to extra cover and John Simpson was bowled through the gate.
Higgins and Ollie Rayner added 27 for the seventh wicket before Higgins was lbw to a ball from Anyon that kept horribly low and after Rayner had been held on the deep mid-wicket boundary off Yasir Arafat, Hatchett removed James Harris and Harry Podmore in the final over to complete career-best bowling figures of 3 for 23.
Sussex lost their talisman Luke Wright in the third over of their reply, leg before to Harris on the walk and, after a mix-up with Nash, Harry Finch was run out by Higgins’ direct hit from the covers in the fifth over.
Like their visitors, Sussex were 40 for 2 at the end of the power play but Nash was in no mood to give it away and he eased to his first half-century of the season.
A stand of 44 in eight overs with Rory Hamilton-Brown (17) took the game away from Middlesex and Nash finished with 74 from 53 balls with three sixes and five fours.
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