Middlesex till we die
Middlesex DestROYed and Winged by Finch
By Jonathan Winsky
August 4 2018


Rare dot ball

Jonathan Winsky provides an excellent detailed report of our defeat and keeping up the ABBA references. Thank you Jonathan for sharing your perspective with us. 
I travelled to The Oval by taking the Docklands Light Railway and Jubilee line from West Silvertown to Waterloo, then taking a South Western Railway service to Vauxhall. It was appropriate that I used Waterloo, as there were a couple of ABBA references in the MTWD report of Middlesex’s defeat to Somerset at Taunton on Sunday, a result which meant that Middlesex could be facing their Waterloo in tonight’s match, especially we then recorded our 6th defeat of the competition v Sussex at Lord’s last night. Since the present format for the Twenty20 competition was introduced in 2014, with each county playing 14 group matches, no side has qualified for the knockout stages having lost more than 6 matches, so anything less than victory tonight would surely be it for us. 

At the toss, Eoin Morgan called correctly and elected to bat. He told Sky’s Mel Jones that we had made 3 changes from the previous night, although he struggled to say off the top of his head precisely which players had been changed! Robbie White was rewarded for his 2nd XI form by being given a Twenty20 debut to replace John Simpson, James Franklin replaced Max Holden (despite Holden having been one of our better players in this competition and having earlier scored 84 off 55 v Somerset at Lord’s) and James Harris replaced Steven Finn. The changes meant that our batting was probably neither stronger nor weaker, while we had one more seam option and one less spin option. Franklin’s recall also meant that we once again had an all-rounder after Dwayne Bravo’s departure. 

The match was played on a pitch which had hosted a match between Surrey and Somerset the previous Friday which was reduced to 10-overs-a-side and which saw Somerset post 99-6 and still lose inside 6.4 overs, and it also hosted a match on Wednesday when Glamorgan chased down Surrey’s 194-6 with an over to spare. I wasn’t sure whether that indicated that this would be a high-scoring match, or whether the fact it was a used pitch would made scoring difficult and maybe help the spinners. 

Our innings nearly got off to the worst possible start, as Surrey’s Nic Maddinson was unable to take a catch which would have dismissed Paul Stirling with the first ball of the match. Only 2 runs came off the first over, but at least we got through it without losing any wickets, unlike our previous 2 matches. The following over saw Nick Gubbins hit each of Rikki Clarke’s first 3 balls to the boundary, although Gubbo was caught by Tom Curran off Jade Dernbach off the final ball of the next over having scored 20 off 9. That was better than the Sussex match, when none of our players other than Morgan could score at more than a run a ball, and when Gubbo contributed just 9 out of 56 to a third-wicket partnership with Morgan. The 5th over started with Stirlo hitting a 6 into the Peter May stand which was caught by a spectator who earned himself £1,000, which set a springboard to us scoring 33 off the final 2 overs of the Powerplay, which we ended on 62-1, which was an excellent Powerplay by our standards. The question was whether we could keep it up, or whether we would do what we often do on the rare occasions we make good start and slow down. 

Thankfully, the runs seemed to continue, as the 9th over saw Stirlo bring up his 50 off just 29 balls, and the next over saw Stirlo and Stevie Eskinazi hit a 6 apiece to take us to 103-1 after 10 overs, while another spectator earned a grand. However, having watched a lot of Middlesex, I was uncertain whether this would be an indicator that we would reach 200 and beyond. Our chances of reaching 200 were helped by Stirlo hitting 2 sixes off the 11th over. Eski was out a couple of overs later when he was caught and bowled by Clarke, although his score of 31 off 27 wasn’t much more than a run a ball. 

Morgan then joined Stirlo at the crease, with 6.2 overs left to take our score from 136-2 to something massive. Will Jacks was introduced into the bowling attack for the 15th over, which I felt would go one of two ways, as I anticipated that either Jacks would make a breakthrough, or our two Irish batsmen would take a great liking to his bowling. There was indeed a breakthrough with the first ball of the over, as a mix-up in an attempt for a second run saw Morgan run out without facing a ball to give him a diamond duck, something which I remember happening to two players in this fixture in 2016. It was a big blow considering Morgan had made 90 last night. Thankfully, the over yielded 14 runs, so it didn’t work out too badly. More importantly, the over also saw Stirlo reach his first Twenty20 hundred for Middlesex, although after the 16th over yielded 14 more runs, Stirlo was out to the final ball of the over for 109 off 58 with 9 fours and 7 sixes. 

I was surprised that the player to come in after Morgan’s dismissal was James Fuller, who came in ahead of White, Ashton Agar and James Franklin. It felt like a good tactical move, although it seemed a bit late in our campaign to start showing signs that we were learning to adapt our batting order to the situation. As we now appeared to like promoting big-hitters, I was also surprised that the player to came in upon Stirlo’s dismissal was Franklin rather than Agar, as Franklin sometimes goes at around a run a ball. However, Fuller and Franklin were able to score freely, hitting boundaries and even running twos (which we rarely seem to do in this format), and they got us up to 221-5, which equalled our record total we set v Sussex at Hove in 2015 (albeit for the loss of 2 wickets). Fuller ended on 37 not out off 18, while Franklin was out off the penultimate ball of the innings for 21 off 8. For the second night running, Agar came to the crease but did not face a ball. White didn’t get a bat. 

I was very happy with our total, and I was hopeful that if we could bowl a few tight overs in the early part of Surrey’s reply, then the rate required would reach 12 and therefore increase after every ball that went for 2 or less. However, Surrey’s openers Jason Roy and Aaron Finch have a great reputation on the world stage, while their number 3 Nic Maddinson is well-known to those who follow the Big Bash and Sydney Sixers in particular, so I knew that if those players were to get going, then there is hardly any total which those players are incapable of reaching. If we could reach 221, then I feared that Surrey could too. 

Just as Stirlo was nearly out to the first ball of our innings, Roy was nearly out to the first ball of Surrey’s innings, only for the ball from Fuller to narrowly miss the stumps and deny us the perfect start to our defence of our total. However, that was as good as it got for us, as the Powerplay was boundary-after-boundary, and they ended the period on 98-0. So much for my hopes of getting the rate required up to 12! Instead, the rate required was 8.85, which must have felt like a simple run chase for Roy and Finch considering how the match had so far gone, and considering how much capability they have. I was hopeful the end of the Powerplay could slow things down and build some pressure, but it was evident that wouldn’t happen, as Finch hit two more sixes to get Surrey halfway towards their target with just 6.4 overs bowled. It was reminiscent of when Gloucestershire posted 254-3 at Uxbridge in 2011, with Kevin O’Brien and Hamish Marshall both scoring centuries, which was one of 2 occasions that 2 batsmen had scored a century in the same innings. Had Surrey been able to bat all 20 overs, they could have gone past that total. However, as Finch’s century was reached when Roy was on 70 and when 44 were required, it was doubtful that Roy could reach three figures too. We finally had a wicket to celebrate when Roy was caught on the boundary by Agar off Fuller for 84. Had it been a six, then Roy would have been on 90, and there would have been 22 runs required, so his century would have been on. Instead, 28 were required, and Finch and Maddison got those runs to take Surrey home by 9 wickets with 24 balls to spare. 

I don’t know what the groundstaff did to the pitch, but it has certainly produced some high-scoring matches of late! 

The result means that Middlesex have met their Waterloo, and will have to play out their final 5 matches with little to play for, so Daniel Vettori must find that demotivating. It will be interesting to see whether our early exit will be reflected in the attendances in our 2 remaining home matches, when we play Glamorgan at Richmond and Essex at Lord’s. Then again, some people go to these matches without paying much attention to how the teams are doing on the pitch or in the competition! Sky are yet to announce which matches they will be showing on Thursday 16th and Friday 17th August, but it is safe to say that their match on the Thursday will not be Middlesex v Essex, as currently Essex are actually performing worse than us! 

I returned home to find further bad news, as I heard that Agar had played his final match for us after being named in a squad for an Australia A series. We might as well not bother with an overseas player for our remaining matches. At least Ravi Patel has a good chance of playing our remaining matches, unless Nathan Sowter returns and we decide we only want Sowter to play.