Phillips sees Essex through
Essex 157 for 8 (Pettini 42, ten Doeschate 34, Phillips 33*) beat Middlesex 153 for 5 (Morgan 69) by two wickets
In his programme notes, Ryan ten Doeschate, the Essex captain, wrote about the need for his side to rediscover the type of form that has encouraged their Chelmsford ground to be regarded as a fortress. Tim Phillips must have been at least one avoid reader.
Just as when it seemed lowly Middlesex had done enough to derail the Eagles' charge and come away from the ground with the points, it was Phillips who staged a late assault to extend his side's winning run to four games and keep them sitting pretty in South Group.
After striding to the crease, with the home side 113 for 6 and on the brink of defeat, Phillips spanked four sixes to change the dynamic of an innings that Middlesex had controlled from the outset. With 13 to win off the final over, bowled by Gurjit Sandhu, Phillips launched one six into the boisterous Chelmsford crowd over midwicket before finishing the job with a top-edge that sailed over the rope and sent the crowd into delirium.
Middlesex, who had fought so admirably and seemed as if they were going to make it two wins in three days, trudged off the field dejected. Not many sides come away from this ground on a Friday evening with the spoils and their efforts must be applauded. Yet their slim hopes of advancing to the knockout stages are now gone.
A couple of days ago, the Panthers had lost eight consecutive Twenty20 games and were a side so muddled, the ignominy of a winless campaign was not implausible. They can now firmly concentrate on re-establishing their Championship form. For Essex, their interest is firmly on the Natwest T20.
Should Essex manage to advance to the latter stages of this competition, they will look back on this result as one that could well shape their campaign. So parlous was their position that pockets of the 5,000 strong crowd had started heckling their own players. But all was forgotten when Phillips began depositing Middlesex's threadbare attack to all parts.
The all-rounder's innings was made even more remarkable by what had gone before. Only Eoin Morgan had managed to bat with any sort of fluency on his way to a pugnacious half-century and even then, runs had to be earned.
Morgan played with all the swagger expected from an England limited-overs specialist as he clubbed nine boundaries, including two lusty sixes, to thrust Middlesex to 153 for 5. It had seemed, for so long, that it was going to be enough but Essex had other ideas.
There were given scare though. On debut, 19-year-old Harry Podmore had Jesse Ryder caught in the deep and as others scratched around him, Pettini's innings lost the impetus he had built up during the powerplay. Their much revered batting line-up came and went without a whimper as the decibel levels decreased with every passing wicket.
Phillips, however, combined with ten Doeschate to keep the contest alive and as the equation became more achievable, Middlesex's demons resurfaced. The departure of ten Doeschate in the penultimate over, caught by a diving Morgan at cover, seemed to swing the balance back in Middlesex's favour. But that only gave Phillips the license to free his arms.
Middlesex remain over reliant on Morgan. Not only did he bind their innings together with a pugnacious half-century but his effervescence and leadership in the field sets the standards.
His departure, in the fifteenth over, run-out in avoidable circumstances coming back for an improbable second, saw Middlesex's innings direction. Neil Dexter and John Simpson were assiduous in approach rather than extravagant in the knowledge that there was little ammunition to follow with just one boundary registered in the final five overs.