Who needs Gayle? Allenby leads Somerset canter
Somerset 177 for 1 (Allenby 89*, Myburgh 53) beat Middlesex 171 for 7 (Simpson 84, Groenewald 3-27) by nine wickets
As Middlesex trudged off after this evisceration, one thought might have terrified them: how much worse could it have been if Chris Gayle were still at Somerset?
At Uxbridge, the pitch has often been criticised for producing soporific Championship cricket but here Jim Allenby and Johann Myburgh were in no mood to complain. Together the two added 118 in 13.2 overs as Somerset waltzed to their target of 172 with rather contemptuous ease.
Middlesex's failure to notch up a higher total deprived Allenby of the third T20 hundred of his career. Still he provided further affirmation of his consistency and class in this format of the game: after 548 runs at 45.66 apiece for Glamorgan last year, he has 237 runs at 47.40 for his new county. After beginning the T20 season at No. 5, to accommodate Gayle and Marcus Trescothick, the latter again omitted from this match, Allenby is relishing his return to opening.
"It's where everyone likes to bat - it's the best place to bat without a doubt. If you get a chance to bat you make the most of it, because there's a mile-long queue of people who want to do it, especially at Taunton and in this team," he said.
Such was his effort that Middlesex's 171 for 7 was made to feel utterly inadequate. While there were manifestations of Allenby's power - a pulled six off Kyle Abbott and a dismissive pull off Ravi Patel, clearing the burger vans with ease, among them - this was an innings marked by a clinical approach. On a pitch as true as Uxbridge, Allenby eschewed histrionics and cruised with the ease of a driver on the M40, which can almost be heard from the ground. He failed to score off only 11 of his 51 deliveries.
"That was an unbelievable pitch with an unbelievable outfield, unbelievable sized boundaries with a big wind," Allenby said. "It wasn't much fun bowling on it - I'm glad I only had to bowl one over. That's a tough place to bowl so we were quite comfortable chasing that." He paid heed, too, to Abdur Rehman, who yielded just 19 from four overs of chicanery.
There feels like a new vitality in Somerset. The successful chase of 401 in the Championship against Nottinghamshire nine days ago - though it feels rather longer - has brought catharsis. Three wins have followed since, the last two by nine wickets. How Middlesex must be envious: the side has not won a game in any format in June.
A three-ball spell rather summed things up. A leading edge from Allenby shaped up as an easy return catch for James Harris, but he assumed the ball was Eoin Morgan's at mid-off, so it dropped between them.
Harris' next delivery induced a leading edge from Myburgh to a vacant midwicket. His pride pricked by the previous ball, Harris ran with gusto, cupping the ball in a brilliant full-length dive - just only for a second. When Allenby earned a single with an overthrow next ball, Uxbridge's heckles were becoming palpable. It seemed appropriate that the denouement came when the rankest of long hops, from Paul Stirling, was marmalised over midwicket by Trego.
The thrashing felt rather unfair on John Simpson. Thriving in the responsibility of batting at No. 3, he held Middlesex together, thundering two ginormous sixes off Max Waller and harrying between the wickets. A delightful straight six off Alfonso Thomas carried him to a career-best in this format, though the most intoxicating shot of the innings was Stirling's thunderous swipe over midwicket off Jamie Overton.
When Stirling was dismissed, Morgan was greeted with generous applause as he walked out to the middle. It was testament to how much England's ODI series against New Zealand had galvanised the public, yet Morgan scarcely resembled the player who had amassed 322 runs in that series. He scratched around for 7 off 16 balls until being sharply taken by Trego on the long-on boundary, who just prevented his fluorescent green trainers from tumbling over the rope.
"Wouldn't miss these shoes," Trego joked to the crowd. Middlesex supporters didn't have much else to laugh about. Two emphatic victories in consecutive nights a month ago proved deceptive: Middlesex have lost five consecutive T20s since. Bottom of the South Group last season, they risk the same fate in 2015. He may have enacted a transformation in England's white ball fortunes, but doing the same at Middlesex seems an even more demanding task for Morgan.
Tim Wigmore is a freelance journalist and author of Second XI: Cricket in its Outposts