Maxwell fails again in shock Hants loss
Middlesex 173 for 6 (Stirling 64) beat Hampshire 123 (Dexter 3-34, Christian 2-6) by 50 runs
"Use your bat!" came the shout from a local fan, as Hampshire were reduced to 116 for 9, with the wickets of Glenn Maxwell and Nathan Rimmington in successive balls. It was an odd cry - both were out caught - but his emotional drop throughout the game was apt reflection of Hampshire, as Middlesex secured only their second win in 12 NatWest T20 Blast matches.
Earlier on, he was a contented man, waving at cheerleaders between sinking ale, as Paul Stirling produced an entertaining blitz of 64 to put Middlesex in a solid position of 114 for 3 when he left the crease at the beginning of the 13th over.
As it happened, his contribution was crucial. Upon his departure, Middlesex only scored 59 off the remaining 47 balls. It looked below par; Ryan Higgins was seen off just as he was motoring and Dan Christian, the last big hitter, unable to free the shackles. Not for the first time in the last month, Stirling has been a reliable asset.
Coming off the back of four Championship fifties in his last five visits to the crease, his game in all three formats has rarely been in a better place. It has been to the frustration of many at Middlesex that it has taken Stirling nearly four years to reach this stage. Whatever the reasons for the delay, there seems to be clarity to his play.
Given his physique, it is easy to cast aspersions at the effort he puts into his cricket. But after countless shuttle runs on the Nursery Ground and endless nets, he has a sleeker frame, ball-shaped bruises and now runs to prove the hard work is paying off.
Even so, at the innings break, our man in the stand was jiving along to "Come On Eileen" in the face of Middlesex's total of 173. Sadly for the hosts, it proved to be beyond them as they hashed their second consecutive run-chase at home.
James Vince looked to have hit himself out of a poor run of form, as he reached double figures for the first time in five innings. But the early introduction of Ollie Rayner robbed Vince of the pace he was driving through the off side and, in attempting to force a ball, only found the hands of Eoin Morgan at point.
Carberry fell next, caught in the deep, as Hampshire found themselves 44 for 2 at the end of the Powerplay, with their two best batsmen back on the bench. More spin with Ravi Patel squeezed out Will Smith and Sean Ervine, but the biggest disappointment of the night was yet again Glenn Maxwell.
No one can dispute the fact that, on his day, he is peerless as a destroyer. But tonight, when there was responsibility to be taken, he palmed it off. There was no evidence of a man who looks to hit every ball for six. Instead, singles, most gallingly to the first balls of the 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th over.
In the 14th, Matt Coles covered his back with 14 from the remaining five balls. But three, including Coles, fell trying to do something that Maxwell was specifically brought in to do. Of course, he is allowed a dip and it is something Hampshire recognise, batting him down at No. 6 to take some pressure off him. It did not make a difference, as Maxwell came to the crease with 98 needed off 55. Truth be told, he looked fed up as he trudged off, caught at long-off with his only shot in anger.
As it stands, Hampshire's fate is still in their hands, but with teams around them with games in hand, they cannot afford any more slip ups.