Middlesex hopes dealt blow by Kent chase
Kent 264 for 8 beat Middlesex 263 by two wickets
Middlesex's hopes of qualifying from Clydesdale Bank 40 Group A were dealt a severe blow as Kent chased down 264 under the Canterbury floodlights to win by two wickets with three balls to spare.
Dawid Malan scored 107 from 113 balls in Middlesex's total of 263 all out, but it proved not to be enough as Darren Stevens (65), Azhar Mahmood (49) and Sam Northeast (57) led Kent to victory.
Kent cannot qualify for the semi-finals, even as the best second-placed team from the three groups, but Middlesex were in a good position to progress before this defeat. It is still mathematically possible for them to go through, but now unlikely. Their defeat was can largely be traced back to a failure to score enough runs from the last five overs of their innings after Malan had spearheaded a drive to 239 for two from 35 overs.
But then, from the first ball of the 36th over, Malan was dismissed and Middlesex could make only another 24 runs as wickets tumbled in dramatic fashion to Pakistan duo Wahab Riaz and Mahmood. Kent, however, knew they still had to bat well and they were given a solid start by Joe Denly and 18-year-old Daniel Bell-Drummond, who put on 51 for the first wicket.
Three wickets fell in 13 balls, with Denly perhaps unlucky to be given out lbw for 28, but Stevens then added 90 with Mahmood, who hit 49 from 43 balls with a six and four fours before he was leg-before sweeping at Malan's leg-breaks.
Stevens hit Toby Roland-Jones over extra cover for six and also Malan for a straight six, but when he fell having faced 54 balls for his runs, caught at long on mis-hitting a full toss, it seemed as if Middlesex might be riding the storm.
Northeast, though, batted with great composure, despite seeing Geraint Jones go for just five, and in partnerships with Adam Ball and the hard-hitting Riaz he hit 57 from 46 balls to see Kent home.
The key moment in an exciting finish when Kent needed 43 from their last five overs was when Northeast was dropped on 48 by Tom Smith on the deep mid-wicket boundary off Tim Murtagh - the ball bouncing out of the fielder's hands to go for six. Fourteen runs from 11 balls were required when Northeast hit the shot.
Northeast was eventually out to the last ball of the 39th over, but by then only four runs were needed and Riaz and James Tredwell made sure of them with no further alarms. In the Middlesex innings Malan added 107 and 109 respectively with Paul Stirling and Neil Dexter for the second and third wickets.
Stirling hit five crisp fours in a 41-ball 45 and Middlesex skipper Dexter hit seven boundaries in his 58 from 52 balls. Stirling had the misfortune to be stumped by Jones off a wide from Simon Cook's first ball, when the seamer was brought on to bowl the 22nd over, and Dexter's well-paced knock was ended by a fine low catch at long on by substitute fielder Matt Coles.
Dexter was part of a remarkable Middlesex middle and lower order slide against Riaz and Mahmood which saw their last eight wickets go down for just 24 runs in 27 balls.
From 239 for 2, and starting with Malan's dismissal to a Riaz inswinging yorker, Middlesex slid to 263 all out - even failing to use up the last three balls of their 40-over allocation. Riaz finished with figures of 5 for 46 and Mahmood ended up with 4 for 52.