Last-ball finish for record crowd
Surrey 138 for 8 beat Middlesex 137 for 8 (Morgan 43, Meaker 4-30) by two wickets
When the ECB's top table formulated their plans for the recast T20 Blast, it was doubtlessly evenings such as this that headed their blueprint. A crowd of 28,500 was expected and although pockets of seats suggested it was a little less it was still likely that a new record for domestic Twenty20 cricket in this country had been set. While many were simply content to revel in the searing sun at HQ, they were treated to a game that befitted the occasion.
If truth be told, it should have been plain sailing for Surrey but their neighbours were in no mood to bestow handouts. In the end Zafar Ansari and Stuart Meaker desperately scurried a single off the last ball to edge them closer to a home quarter-final. Indeed, the result - a two-wicket Surrey win - will prompt the competition's head honchos to lick their lips in anticipation of a similar bonanza across the river in the knockout stages.
Surrey have encountered a couple of hiccups in recent weeks and so nearly fell at the penultimate hurdle here. In restricting the home side to 137 for 8, on a pitch that although topped with green rewarded a positive approach, they did much of the legwork but stumbled before crossing the line.
Kevin Pietersen scored a brisk, if not convincing, 28 and cameos from Rory Burns and Azhar Mahmood - the latter brilliantly caught, away to his right, by John Simpson - twice looked to have set the result in stone but this was a game that exhibited everything good about a competition that can often be ridiculed.
Harry Podmore gave Middlesex a beacon of hope by taking wickets in the 17th and 19th overs before Dan Christian increased the noise levels inside Lord's by having Gareth Batty caught in the deep. Requiring five to win off the final over, Batty holed out to Joe Denly before Ansari and Man of the Match Meaker managed to scramble home.
It has been quite a week for Meaker. A combination of injury and the strength of fast-bowling resources at Surrey's disposal left him downcast and discarded but a period in the shadows has provided a healthy dose of sustenance. In taking a career-best 4 for 30 he derailed Middlesex and unearthed the batting demons that have riddled their forgettable campaign. An unprecedented doubleheader in late May underlined the club's desire to experiment but a six game winless run ended their interest in the competition long ago. Still, it has barely impacted on their gate receipts.
Eoin Morgan had the crowd purring with an array of masterful strokes that have become part of his limited-overs repertoire. A powerful slash off Mahmood set his innings in motion and despite both Denly and Dawid Malan falling when they looked set, Morgan had little hesitation in getting on top of the bowlers - an inside out cover drive off Batty that sailed over the rope was a particular highlight.
But much like his side, Meaker found his straps after a slow start. Denly, who had been the beneficiary of a rare blunder from Batty at first slip, greeted the fast bowler with consecutive boundaries towards a crammed Mound Stand as he leaked 15 runs from his opening over. But Meaker looks a fitter, hungrier beast since his return and regularly clocked high speeds although breached Morgan's defences with a perfectly executed slower-ball. It was a delivery that changed the dynamic of the game: Middlesex proceeded to loose 6 for 26 in the final six overs of their innings.
Yet, Surrey will know they have work to do if they are to harbour any hopes of going one better than last year. On this occasion they had luck on their side. Jason Roy was dropped twice in quick succession as Ollie Rayner and then Ryan Higgins shelled steepling chances and then Morgan was unable to complete the run-out off the final ball that would have resulted in a tie.
Little has deterred Roy during a season that has seen him dish out severe punishment to all that have crossed his path but not many bowlers send it down with quite the pace and bounce of Steven Finn. Roy was eventually stumped off Ravi Patel, whose left-arm spin was impressive on the day he was called up by England Lions.
Finn, meanwhile, provided further evidence that he has returned stronger with a lively burst that accounted for Tillakaratne Dilshan in the first over with one that lifted steeply. He also removed Robin Peterson as Middlesex just about kept themselves in the match during the closing stages, but ultimately a campaign that has been woeful for them for all the effort it was another defeat. The crowd, however, had been entertained.