Twenty20 Cup round-up June 16, 2008

Malan maintains Middlesex's record

Middlesex 144 for 5 (Joyce 47, Malan 41*) beat Surrey 141 for 7 (Benning 50*) by five wickets

James Benning: a ponderous half-century for Surrey © Getty Images
Dawid Malan preserved Middlesex's unbeaten record with 41 not out from 28 balls, as Surrey were made to rue a ponderous batting performance in a low-scoring encounter at Lord's.

Chasing 142 for victory, Middlesex were in some strife at 63 for 4 when Malan joined his captain, Ed Joyce, but a fifth-wicket stand of 57 broke the back of the run-chase. Though Joyce was caught in the covers for 47, Malan sealed a five-wicket win with an over to spare as he bounded out of his crease and slapped Matthew Spriegel to the Tavern Stand boundary for the sixth four of his innings - which was only two fewer than Surrey had managed in their full 20 overs.

In the end, Middlesex won comfortably, but they were made to battle at first. Pedro Collins gave Surrey an early lift when he pinned Billy Godleman lbw in his first over, and their hopes went stratospheric two runs later as Andrew Strauss completely misread a slower-ball full-toss from Jade Dernbach and chopped onto his stumps for 4. But Middlesex refused to get bogged down, and Eoin Morgan signalled their clear-headed intent when he clobbered Abdul Razzaq into the Grandstand hospitality boxes.

Razzaq, though, was the pick of Surrey's bowlers, and it was he who kept them in the hunt with three timely middle-order wickets. Morgan was his first scalp, caught off a mistimed drive for 26 by Ally Brown, running back towards the pavilion, then Tyrone Henderson, with a smack over long-off to his credit, missed with a wild slog and lost his leg stump for 8. Razzaq's third could have been the most crucial - Joyce had been Middlesex's ballast in a run-a-ball 47, until he miscued a swat to Mark Ramprakash in the covers - but Malan found a reliable ally in Ben Scott, and the pair picked off the final 22 runs with minimum fuss.

Surrey's innings, on the other hand, was laborious to say the least. It started inauspiciously when Scott Newman touched a ferocious lifter from Dirk Nannes in the first over and departed for a duck, and though Chris Jordan and James Benning added a steady 60 for the second wicket to provide a platform of sorts, neither man was able to lift the tempo of a subdued performance.

Jordan did his best - of the eight fours in Surrey's innings, four of them came from his free-swinging blade, including a baseball-style swing through long-off off Nannes. But he holed out for 26 off the left-arm spin of Murali Kartik, and thereafter Surrey's middle-order came and went with nothing but cameos to show for their efforts. Underpinning (or undermining) the performance was Benning. His attempts at authentic cricket strokes seemed to hit every fielder in the ring, and when he nudged the penultimate ball of the innings for a single to bring up his fifty, he surpassed Jimmy Maher's unwanted record for the lowest individual score for any player carrying their bat in the Twenty20 Cup.

Maher's unbeaten 51, however, had come in the second innings for Durham against Lancashire in 2006, and proved to be a perfectly paced chase, as they won off the final delivery of the match. Benning managed only two fours in his 53-ball knock, and on the day when Middlesex called upon the crowd to turn Lord's pink, his blushes added to the colour on display.

At the other end, Surrey's batsmen came and went. Usman Afzaal drilled Shaun Udal into Joyce's midriff for 11, while Razzaq and Brown both picked out Morgan in the deep with mistimed drives. Brown did at least pick off the only six of Surrey's innings when Tim Murtagh served up a waist-high full-toss in the 17th over, but he was lucky to escape being sent back for a duck when Kartik contrived to fluff one of the most comical run-outs imaginable. Brown had been sent back after attempting to run a bye off a leg-side wide, and Kartik had all the time in the world to reach out to flick off the bails as the throw came in to the non-striker's end. Instead he unleashed the ball from half-a-yard's distance ... and missed.

In the end, it was not costly. Ramprakash, pushed down the order to No. 7, also survived a run-out chance as Joyce's throw went wide from mid-off, but he picked out a leaping Godleman at midwicket before Jon Batty patted limply to mid-off in the final over. It was a sorry showing from Surrey, who have won just one of their first four outings of the competition. Middlesex, however, march ever onwards.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo