Skipper Ian Cockbain hit his best T20 score of 91 to guide Gloucestershire to a seven-wicket victory over Middlesex in the opening NatWest Blast game at Bristol. Cockbain smacked 5 sixes and 9 fours in an exciting 49-ball innings, sharing a second-wicket stand of 98 in 9.3 overs with Hamish Marshall (56) as the hosts reached a target of 176 to win with an over to spare.
Earlier, Nick Compton had also made a career-best T20 score of 78, off 53 balls, with 9 fours to help Middlesex post 175 for three. Paul Stirling contributed 39 and Adam Voges 31 not out, while Benny Howell was the most economical Gloucestershire bowler. It looked unlikely to be enough on a true pitch.
Despite increasingly poor light and intermittent rain, Marshall gave the home side a flying start, timing the ball sweetly from the start to reach his half-century off 33 balls, with 5 fours and 2 sixes. After the early loss of Chris Dent, Cockbain joined Marshall and the outcome never looked in much doubt. The pair matched each other shot for shot in taking the score from 15 to 113 before Marshall was caught behind off Steven Finn, who returned two for 29 from his four overs.
Peter Handscomb fell cheaply to James Harris, but, having reached a 30-ball half-century, Cockbain continued to bat with confidence and panache to see the job through, finishing the match with his fifth six. His previous best score in the competition was 84 against Sussex at Hove last season.
The Middlesex total had been based on an opening stand of 65 in 6.3 overs between Compton and Stirling, who began watchfully and blossomed as the power play progressed. Stirling hit the first four off the last ball of the third over, but the next two from Matt Taylor and David Payne saw both concede three boundaries.
The innings was really starting to flow when Stirling, having faced 24 balls and hit 6 fours, was bowled having a swing at Taylor, whose brother Jack was introduced into the attack straight after the breakthrough. The off-spinner began steadily and after ten overs Middlesex were relatively becalmed on 79 for two as he claimed the wicket of Joe Burns, caught at long-off for only five, having survived a stumping chance to Geraint Jones. Compton moved to his half-century off 36 balls, with 4 fours, in the 14th over.
While he and Adam Voges picked off ones and twos, the innings lacked an explosive contribution. In the 17th over Compton passed his previous best T20 score of 74, made for Somerset against Essex at Taunton back in 2010. But he perished soon afterwards, leg before to James Fuller. It was left to James Franklin to hit the only two sixes of the innings, a glorious straight shot off David Payne and a loft over fine leg off Fuller, while Voges hit just 2 fours in his 27-ball contribution.
Gloucestershire match-winner Ian Cockbain said: "Head coach Richard Dawson rang me last week to tell me I would be captain in the opening T20 games so I have had a bit of time to get my head around it.