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May 17, 2014
Sussex 128 (Jordan 25, Roland-Jones 3-25) beat Middlesex 115 for 6 (Morgan 30, Piolet 2-15) by 13 runs
Dawid Malan's runout sparked Sussex's dogged defense of 128
Quite what Middlesex envisaged when they agreed to open their NatWest T20 Blast campaign with back-to-back games at Lord's, it surely was not two defeats within five hours.
By succumbing in such a fashion they not only suffered a severe blow to their chances of progressing in the tournament, but they did nothing to encourage new supporters to return for another helping. Watching Middlesex scratch around for 20 overs in scoring just 115 is not what T20 was designed to offer.
To be fair, Sussex produced some admirable cricket in the field and again showed the benefits - the somewhat prosaic benefits - of accurate medium-pace and spin bowling. Steffan Piolet, delivering his medium-pace with admirable control, conceded just 15 runs in his four overs to claim the man of the match award, while Yasir Arafat conceded only two more.
But, thrilling though it is to see the likes of Chris Jordan charge in with the Lord's Pavilion behind him, it is unlikely many children will be begging their parents to take them back to see such any of the medium to slow bowlers that made up 12 overs of the Sussex allocation again soon. And Jordan will now depart on England duty.
This was an odd game. While the earlier match, played on the same surface, had realised 361 runs, this one brought just 243. Perhaps the pitch had slowed a fraction and certainly the bowling was better in the second game, but it is hard to avoid the confusion that the main difference was simply underwhelming batting from both Sussex and Middlesex.
Certainly Middlesex will reflect that this was a largely self-inflicted defeat. By starting their modest run-chase slowly - they managed just 26 from the first six overs - the top-order increased the pressure on their side and that pressure resulted in some pretty thoughtless strokes.
Eoin Morgan scooped to backward square leg, Dan Christan, who endured an undistinguished day having fallen first ball in the previous game, drove down the throat of long-leg and Paul Stirling flicked to square leg. Joe Denly, whose grim run of form has earned him just 34 runs in six innings this season across two competitions, missed a sweep.
|Players have to realise that, if they want the decent salaries, if they want to play in front of good-sized crowds, if they want domestic cricket to become viable and relevant, they have to appeal more to the customers' demands|
It should have been a straightforward victory. Only one Sussex batsman, Jordan, reached 20 as Middlesex produced a much-improved bowling performance. James Harris and Toby Roland-Jones claimed five for 35 between them, while Ravi Patel produced a tight spell of left-arm spin bowling. At one stage Sussex went 34 balls without hitting a boundary.
But in defending 128 - surely one of the lower totals defended in this competition - Sussex provided another reminder of the limited-overs prowess that has seen them win four senior limited-overs trophies since 2006. In such circumstances, calm heads and confidence are as important attributes as any.
The players, understandably, have reservations about the demands of back-to-back games. But the players also have to realise that, if they want the decent salaries, if they want to play in front of good-sized crowds, if they want domestic cricket to become viable and relevant, they have to appeal more to the customers' demands. It is, after all, meant to be a spectator sport.
A comparison with some US sports, particularly baseball, would suggest that cricketers do not have too much about which to complain.
From a marketing perspective, the back-to-back game experiment was a modest success. About 11,000 spectators bought tickets and about another two-and-a-half thousand more members attended.
The acid test is whether those numbers can be maintained. In the longer-term, the ECB hope to see T20 attendances almost double over the next three years. It is an ambitious target and will require counties to buy into the vision. This match provided a step in the right direction, but suggested there was a long way to go.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: George Dobell
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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