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Vithushan Ehantharajah at Lord's
July 25, 2013
Surrey 178 for 7 (O'Brien 54, Patel 3-28, Berg 3-37) beat Middlesex 92 by 86 runs
It was over so quickly that people didn't really know what to do with themselves. Some stayed in their seats, others meandered - all finishing off the food, drink and conversations that would have lasted them 20 minutes more. The rest sidled out into the streets of North-West London, muttering about one of the worst Middlesex performances in recent memory.
For the first time in their Twenty20 history, Middlesex failed to reach three figures. It was rather uneasy to watch; Dawid Malan, Joe Denly, Adam Voges and Paul Stirling managing to face only 21 deliveries between them, amassing 25 runs. Eoin Morgan hit the hardest nine runs you'll ever hear, before Jason Roy took a superb catch at backward point. He would drop one later, eliciting the second biggest sarcastic cheer of the night - first coming in the games' aftermath when St John's Wood station was deemed open, just minutes after the PA announced it was closed.
But if Middlesex were bereft of ideas, it was because Surrey weren't giving them any clues. Their in-fielding was top notch, backing up some impressive bowling, particularly from Chris Tremlett who looked as quick as he has done this season.
Essentially, the game was settled on who utilised the boundary away to the Tavern and Mound Stand best. "Barely 45 yards," according to Kevin O'Brien, who pillaged 54 in just 24 balls. However, it was his Irish counterpart Stirling on the opposition who made the most emphatic use of the abbreviated edge when he hooked Tremlett out of the ground. It was the only maximum Middlesex could muster.
O'Brien will join Ricky Ponting - kept out of today with a groin complaint - in the Caribbean Twenty20, which he sets off for on Sunday. As such, he will be unavailable for the knockout stages of the FLt20, but he has helped Surrey get closer to them with this win seeing them leapfrog Middlesex into third via run rate, with two games left to play.
It was a shame that Middlesex's home campaign in the competition ended in such a disappointing manner in front of a bumper crowd of 28,000. Is it a London thing? Surrey have also boasted sell outs at The Oval this season, and it will again be the case tomorrow when Kent visit.
The capital's two grounds are 45 minutes and two trains apart, and there may indeed be a crossover of neutrals, but they are shining advertisements that Twenty20 cricket is a good thing. The vitality it brings to the domestic game cannot be understated, not least when it comes to carrying through a new generation of fans - one that was probably lost in the time before free hits. Just ask Roy who was mobbed like the boy band member he resembles when he stepped out of the Pavilion to head home, by a crowd of kids baying for his signature on programmes, mini bats and boundary signs.
As the crowds settled in, Surrey were flustering to 17 for 2. But it was the promotion of O'Brien to No. 4 that proved to be the making of Surrey's innings, as he made use of 11 of the remaining Powerplay deliveries available to him to score 29.
At the other end, Vikram Solanki was proving a contrasting foil for O'Brien, as they put on 90 - Surrey's highest partnership for any wicket in the competition this season. They batted with such polarising ways and means that you could imagine them flat sharing in the lower east side of Manhattan; Solanki, the city slicker, all class and convention, and O'Brien, the small town biffer, with larger than life personality and tree trunks for arms. Cue your conventional sitcom capers.
The difference in their methods was perhaps most evident when it came to their approach to the short boundary. While Solanki danced and flicked Ravi Patel to midwicket for six, O'Brien clubbed and muscled. Both fell in Patel's final over, as the left-arm spinner finished with the impressive figures of 3 for 28 in his four, the only Middlesex player to leave Lord's with anything to celebrate, albeit sheepishly.
Gareth Berg might have been another when he quelled a last over blitz with some fine yorkers to concede only four runs by taking two wickets. It turned out to be rather pointless in the end, as Middlesex flopped in London's dusk and all but quashed their FLt20 dreams.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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