Middlesex Panthers (157-8, 26.0) lost by 5 wickets to Gloucestershire Gladiators (161-5, 22.2)
Monday 7th May 2012
By Liam Cromar at Lord’s
Middlesex’s start to the CB40 season proved less auspicious than their positive County Championship opening, as their total of 157-8 proved insufficient against a Gloucestershire side keen to make amends for their 1-run defeat against the Netherlands.
Riding high after the previous day’s Championship win over Worcestershire, Middlesex made four changes. The two England players Strauss and Finn made way for two other internationally-capped players, Stirling of Ireland and Collymore of the West Indies.
The start was delayed by rain arriving later than anticipated, and with the match reduced to a near-T20 26-over thrash, the Gloucestershire captain inserted Middlesex in moist and cloudy conditions. Denly and Malan struggled against the opening pair of Saxelby and Gidman, only scoring 21 runs in the 5 overs of the first Powerplay, but started to cut loose against the change bowlers. Both openers survived sharp chances, however, Denly edging through the hands of slip for a streaky boundary, and Malan’s jab back to McCarter not being taken cleanly. Denly soon departed, as he, after crunching McCarter’s first ball through the off-side for four, found his stumps rearranged the next ball.
Young, bowling from the Media Centre end, proved the most incisive weapon of the Gladiators, severely restraining the Panthers’ ability to score in the middle overs, setting back the Panthers with three key wickets. Malan was the first to fall, slicing to mid-off. Dexter never looked entirely at ease, and was lucky to survive a top-edge off Young, as he attempted a premeditated slog-sweep to leg from a ball far too far outside off for the shot. He failed to capitalise on his escape, succumbing shortly thereafter to Young for 9. Stirling consolidated with a useful 25, but looked disappointed with a tickle to the keeper. Young was chosen to deliver 6 overs, as opposed to the 5 permitted to the others, and finished with excellent figures of 6-0-26-3.
Rebuilding from 90-5, Berg (23) and Simpson (29) averted total collapse, joining forces to see Middlesex to an average 157-8. With bowling the Middlesex strong suit, however, 158 would not be an entirely straightforward chase for the Gladiators.
As it turned out, though, despite the first-over wicket of Dent, who was trapped LBW by a Murtagh delivery that straightened back into the left-hander, Gloucestershire got off to a flier. Howell and the New Zealand international Hamish Marshall put on 53 in partnership, in just 5.2 overs. After Marshall was dismissed, there was scarcely any letup as Gloucestershire raced to 89-2 in just 10 overs, with Middlesex looking powerless to stem the flow of runs. While Rayner and Crook both struck in their opening overs, Gloucestershire, in reality, were never in trouble. The initial onslaught had reduced the required run rate to an easy 4 or 5 an over, and continually improved.
The latter part of the innings meandered on in a markedly different fashion to the beginning: although the big hitters Marshall (33), Gidman (26) and Williamson (9) had all departed, the run rate was such that singles were all that were needed, Gloucestershire finally crossing the finishing line against the bowling of Denly. The number 3 Howell was still present, remaining unbeaten on 45.
While only a limited number of findings can legitimately be extrapolated from a 26-over game, Gloucestershire leave Lord’s with no obvious weaknesses, aside from perhaps an odd propensity to falling LBW, particularly in the first over of a new bowler’s spell. Middlesex have rather more to work on, in particular their middle-order batting, and their opening-over economy rate.