Matt Taylor holds his nerve as Gloucestershire edge home by two runs
At Merchant Taylors School, Gloucestershire defeated Middlesex by a slim margin to earn their first Vitality Blast victory of the current season. Matt Taylor successfully protected seven from the last over.
The former Gloucestershire all-rounder Ryan Higgins needed three off the final ball and attempted a paddle shot, which resulted in him being run out for 24. The left-armer gave up just four runs.
Middlesex, who are still without a victory in the competition, had appeared on track to end their losing streak when captain Stephen Eskinazi hit a half-century and Higgins and Luke Hollman put together a 55-run sixth-wicket stand from 30 balls.
However, despite Miles Hammond‘s hit of 59 from 42, Gloucestershire’s score of 181 for nine was just exceeded by them.
The captain of Middlesex, Eskinazi, was visibly irritated. “I believe that up until there were 12 balls left in the game, we played nearly the ideal T20 game, especially an outdoor T20 game. When you’re four goals down, have two of your most experienced players at the crease, and have 12 shots on goal, you probably win that game 999 out of every 1000 times.
“It stings for sure. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before, not with people as senior as that at the crease and I don’t think the guys need me to tell them how much it hurts the team. It’s going to be a tough one to bounce back from. I’m very disappointed.”
After losing the toss and being given the opportunity to bat, Gloucestershire started off quickly, with Grant Roelofsen taking 18 from Tom Helm’s second over. However, the opener’s tame innings of 34 from 19 came to an end when he put Higgins’ half-volley to mid-off.
Higgins was costly overall, as seen by his lost catch at long-on when Hammond, who had just played nine balls, took on Hollman. Higgins was playing against his former county for the first time after returning to Middlesex.
The left-hander took advantage of that opening by blasting successive Blake Cullen deliveries over the fence and pushing Hollman over the top for six more runs as he neared his fifty before cutting Cullen to point.
Joe Cracknell made the catch, his third of the innings. It was ordinary in comparison to his second catch, which was a sensational one-handed grab that removed the visiting captain Jack Taylor after he sprinted from deep midwicket to long on.
Cullen finished with three for 38 after also getting rid of the powerful Marchant de Lange, and Martin Andersson had two for 30 as Graeme van Buuren’s unbeaten 28 from 19 pushed Gloucestershire over 180.
At the beginning of their pursuit, Middlesex maintained the necessary run rate of nine thanks to Cracknell, who swept Tom Smith’s opening delivery to the boundary and expertly cut through the leg-side fielders to take four more off David Payne.
He and Eskinazi scored easily, amassing a partnership of 78 from 48 runs, but Cracknell, who had reverse-swept Smith for four runs, was bowled out for 42 runs from 28 deliveries later in the over while attempting to repeat the play.
Eskinazi had an impact on the Gloucestershire spinners by driving van Buuren over long-on for two sixes, but Ollie Price improved the visitors’ chances by dismissing both Max Holden and Pieter Malan with a single over off-breaks.
De Lange followed up Price’s two-hit over with a shot through Eskinazi’s defenses to remove his middle stump, but Hollman and Higgins’ valiant counterattack put a halt to the damage.
Hollman scored 39 runs from 19 before being bowled by Price, who had his best T20 stats of three for 21. Hollman hit two fours off Matt Taylor in short succession then blasted Payne back down the ground for another to get this total.