Middlesex v Sussex, NatWest T20 Blast, South Division, Lord's May 17, 2014

Middlesex endure two defeats in one day

Sussex 128 (Jordan 25, Roland-Jones 3-25) beat Middlesex 115 for 6 (Morgan 30, Piolet 2-15) by 13 runs

Three wickets for Toby Roland-Jones could not spare Middlesex a second defeat within five hours Anthony Devlin / © PA Photos

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 ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Mark on May 18, 2014, 7:55 GMT

    @Lymebayrobin My first experience of attending cricket regularly was to go to the Sunday League in the late 1970s. I had attended Gloucestershire's frustrated attempt to win the Championship in 1976 - 5000 in the ground as Gordon Greenidge's century won the match and Kent and Middlesex both won to share the title.

    On Sunday's though I could watch my heroes and see a whole game in the afternoon although, with the limit on run-ups, obviously the bowling lost some threat and it wasn't quite the same. The County Ground at Bristol never quite filled completely, but there was always a healthy crowd for the games and a great atmosphere and I saw some classic games, including one that was immortalised by Peter Roebuck in his account "a wild, wild run chase". It's a shame that the competition was killed off.

  • Gareth on May 17, 2014, 23:09 GMT

    14 balls for Paul Stirling to get off the mark in a T20 game.


  • Tim on May 17, 2014, 21:55 GMT

    I went to the first T20 match between Middlesex and Surrey at Lords in 2004 . The novelty value saw a sell out crowd which then subsided year on year.

    The unique appeal of finals day with three matches makes it a great occasion ( even as a Somerset supporter) does playing double headers in the regular season make it like the FA cup semi finals at Wembley - devaluing the actual final?

    As for trying to double T20 attendances in three years I would say the ECB have zero chance of achieving this. The novelty is long gone, overseas stars are at the IPL and if Lords is only 1/2 full for a double header on the hottest day of the year well......

    Personally I much preferred the 40 over competition on a Sunday where there is at least the chance for a a match to ebb and flow. 2 p.m start finish at 7 made the hour drive seem worthwhile.

    Going to see the Surrey match tomorrow hoping it will last longer than the drive!

  • Mark on May 17, 2014, 20:36 GMT

    When you are 87-3 with almost 5 overs to go and need only 42 more to win, with a well-set batsman of the class of Eoin Morgan at the crease, most sides would expect to win with something to spare. It's almost as if that glorious chase against Yorkshire - albeit different competition and different format - never happened: the doubts are back that tend to make Middlesex freeze when they should be winning.

    Incidentally, Dan Christian's form for Gloucs last season was so poor that the supporters were asking for him to be dropped in favour of a young player once progression was out of the question: his batting was poor (relatively slow as well as lacking in significant contributions) and his bowling returns worse... not what you expect of an expensive signing. Were Middlesex aware of this when they signed him?

    On the flip side, a match-turning 25 from 20 balls that gave Sussex something to defend and 1-25 with the ball from Chris Jordan - the lad is useful!

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