Pollard blows Middlesex away
Somerset 158 for 5 beat Middlesex 155 for 6 by five wickets
Kieron Pollard singlehandedly took Somerset to a five-wicket win over Middlesex at Lord's with the sort of power-hitting that has made him one of the most prized freelancers in Twenty20 cricket. A characteristically enterprising unbeaten 48 from Eoin Morgan had lifted Middlesex to 155 for 6, and the home side then had Somerset in trouble at 31 for 4 in the sixth over in reply, but Pollard slammed seven fours and seven sixes to guide the visitors to what was eventually an easy win. Just as in their game against Sussex last week, Middlesex had bossed the Powerplay overs but - again, just as happened last week - they then lost their grip on the game and never recovered it.
Middlesex, uncertain after their mixed performance with the bat, suddenly began to show some hustle in the field when Craig Kieswetter, looking to dominate early on, flashed across the line at a full one from Tim Murtagh and top-edged to send the ball rocketing straight upwards, Gilchrist setting himself underneath the steepling chance. Gareth Berg also ran in with verve, beating the bat on more than one occasion and giving away just two singles in his first over.
Marcus Trescothick settled the visitors' early nerves with a seemingly effortless biff over long-off, but disaster struck soon after as a mix-up between Trescothick and James Hildreth saw the Somerset captain run out for 20. Jos Buttler's dismissal - bowled by Pedro Collins as he shuffled too far to the off side and the bowler speared in a leg-stump yorker - brought Pollard, Somerset's big name signing, to the crease.
Murtagh almost had a second wicket when Hildreth drove too early at a ball pitched up to him to send back a sharp return catch which the bowler, tumbling over in his follow-through, couldn't quite hold on to. Middlesex didn't have to wait long to make amends, however, as Hildreth cut Murtagh straight to Tom Smith at point. Again, the chance was juggled, but this time it stuck.
At the end of the Powerplay, Somerset were struggling at 31 for 4 and Shaun Udal brought himself on, and after a couple of nervy defensive prods Pollard chipped him just over the leaping straight midwicket fielder. Another uppish flick that sped past the same fielder and just five runs from his first over convinced Udal that spin from both ends was the way to go, but Pollard responded to Smith's introduction at the Media Centre end with a monstrous strike that sailed over long-off and an imperious loft over cover that never got more than four metres off the ground but sailed easily over the boundary.
With Pollard now in full flow, Udal was despatched for the biggest six of the day - straight over long-on and crashing into the pavilion wall near to the Middlesex changing rooms - and a cutter from Berg was flicked into the grand stand for another maximum.
Barely 15 minutes had passed since Pollard had lumbered slowly to the crease with his side in a spot of bother, and yet now victory seemed almost academic for Somerset. Six No. 5, off Neil Dexter, went straight into the Somerset dugout, and No. 6 - a colossal thump to wide long-on - brought up his half-century.
It could have ended there, as a botched call for a single lead to a mid-pitch meeting between the two batsmen, but, sensing that his team could not lose so long as Pollard remained at the wicket, Peter Trego sacrificed himself and was run out.
Then came a flurry of fours as Pollard clipped Collins firmly behind square on the leg side and then scythed Berg for three more boundaries - aerial, but bouncing short of the rope - in an arc between wide long on and deep cover. The target had been reduced to 24 from 30, with Zander de Bruyn trundling along quite happily at better than a-run-a-ball at the other end but quite anonymous amid the carnage.
Pollard swatted a seventh sixth off an attempted bouncer from Murtagh to take Somerset to the brink, and then sealed the result with a powerful paddle-pull that bisected fine leg and deep square leg. Unbelievably, considering the position they had been in, Somerset won with more than two overs to spare and Pollard, unsurprisingly, was named Man of the Match.
Pollard showed his worth in Twenty20 cricket at this level with the ball too, picking up three wickets as Middlesex struggled to build any momentum in their innings until Morgan's arrival at the crease. Coming in at 68 for 3 after a second failure with the bat for Adam Gilchrist - whose Middlesex record now stands at two runs from 11 deliveries for twice out - and two briefly threatening innings from Scott Newman and Neil Dexter, Morgan started slowly, running singles hard and looking to place the ball in the gap.
But after Owais Shah's dismissal - swishing Pollard straight to Alfonso Thomas at deep midwicket - Morgan unleashed his full repertoire of shots. He really got going with the shot of Middlesex's innings - an utterly confident loft over cover and into the lower tier of the Tavern stand - and followed that up with an intelligent tickle to fine leg from a Murali Kartik free hit.
After testing Udal's fitness with three twos in a row in the final over, Morgan pulled off an extraordinary reverse-sweep off Thomas - who bowled at sharp pace throughout - to move into the 40s. A full toss chipped out to cover brought yet another two, a flowing clip through square leg brought him four more from the final delivery, and in all 16 had come from the final over. It looked like Middlesex had a competitive total, but Pollard made sure they were nowhere close.
Liam Brickhill is an assistant editor at ESPN Cricinfo