Middlesex clinch 30-run win in Vitality Blast opener v Glos

26 May 2022

Middlesex’s new T20 captain Stephen Eskinazi starred with an impressive 87 from 37 balls to lead his side to a rare Vitality Blast victory against Gloucestershire.

Eskinazi’s innings at the top of the order set up a total of 229 for nine at Radlett – the Seaxes’ highest ever in the tournament – and that proved enough to secure a 30-run success.

Middlesex restricted their West Country opponents to 199 for nine in reply – only the third time they have defeated Gloucestershire in Blast history.

Benny Howell’s courageous effort of 46 from 20 was not enough to rescue Gloucestershire, with Martin Andersson taking three for 33 as the home side closed out the game.

Having won the toss, Gloucestershire put their hosts in – but their powerplay bowling was ruthlessly dismantled by Eskinazi and Max Holden, who blazed a partnership of 61 from just 26 balls.

That stand included just one six, struck by Holden off Ryan Higgins (three for 32) before he misjudged the next ball and speared it to point, but Joe Cracknell maintained Middlesex’s momentum with a bruising knock of 26.

Although Cracknell played on to a slower ball from the wily Howell, who achieved some degree of control with figures of one for 33, Eskinazi continued to pick out gaps in the field with expertise.

He reverse paddled Higgins for an audacious six and looked well set to register his second Blast century – only to be deceived by Naseem Shah’s slow bouncer, which he spooned into the hands of third man.

Eskinazi’s departure triggered a mini-collapse, with five wickets falling for 22 and, although Eoin Morgan’s knock of 41 from 24 held the innings together, he fell to an impressive catch on the run by Miles Hammond at long-off – one of three by the Gloucestershire fielder.

The visitors made an uncertain start in reply, with Chris Green bowling James Bracey around his legs, although Hammond (23) and Ian Cockbain (13) threatened to cut loose during the powerplay.

But Luke Hollman (two for 35) struck twice in his first two overs, including the prize scalp of overseas star Glenn Phillips – the big-hitting New Zealander caught neatly just inside the long-on boundary by Toby Roland-Jones.

Former Middlesex all-rounder Higgins looked as though he might be the man to thwart the home side, slamming 34 from 21 in an enterprising stand of 43 with skipper Jack Taylor (19 from 11).

Both batters fell to Blake Cullen in quick succession, but Howell refused to give up the chase – slamming Cullen for two leg-side sixes in as many deliveries and then launching Green for another maximum.

However, when Andersson had Howell caught off a skier, the visitors’ faint hopes were all but ended.

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