Weekes hundred all in vain
Northamptonshire 238 (Afzaal 75, Richardson 3-46, Betts 3-46) beat Middlesex 219 (Weekes 105, Wright 4-38) by 19 runs
Chasing what had appeared to be a below-par total of 238, Middlesex's innings never really built any momentum, only briefly sparking into life when Paul Weekes and Andrew Strauss found their touch with 42 runs off six overs. The turning point came when Strauss, who had shown only glimpses of form, was well caught low down at second slip by Martin Love off Ben Phillips. Middlesex at that stage were 48 for 1 in the 13th over, but that was as good as it got.
Weekes never found any rhythm despite being the penultimate man out in the last over for 105. Had he found support for his anchor innings, once Ed Smith had departed for 42, then Middlesex would probably have won and he would have been a shoe-in for the Man of the Match. As it was, he was unable to accelerate when the pressure was on - he hit just six fours in all, and all but one of those came early on. With the in-form Owais Shah and Ed Joyce both falling trying to make up for lost time, the pressure mounted.
But Northamptonshire kept a stranglehold as the asking rate crept towards double figures. Scott Styris, who smacked 26 off 17 balls, briefly caused a few butterflies with two sixes over cow corner, but when he perished attempting a third to a catch a yard inside the long-on boundary, the game was up. Damien Wright picked up four late wickets by virtue of keeping the ball up in the blockhole, and Johann Louw gave him excellent support as Middlesex lost their last six wickets for eight runs.
Northamptonshire had earlier suffered a collapse of their own after reaching 175 for 2, largely thanks to Usman Afzaal's 75. With Sales (40), Afzaal added 80 for the third wicket, but when he departed aiming an ambitious swipe at Melvyn Betts it started a slide in which seven wickets fell for 40 runs in 56 balls. But Rob White, who looked to be batting too low down the order, cracked 36 from 22 balls, including a straight six off Richardson into the pavilion, as the last two overs yielded 18 runs.
As the innings ended a Northants supporter muttered that their total was so poor that the team "might as well get on the bus now." In the event, White's late flurry proved decisive.
Martin Williamson is managing editor of Cricinfo