Essex 151 for 6 (Ryder 59) beat Middlesex 150 for 5 (Gubbins 46, Tait 2-19) by 4 wickets
Sometimes the result doesn't matter. When George Scott of Middlesex, 19 years old and playing only his second professional T20 match, ran in from long-off and dived forwards, it didn't really matter if he had or had not got his hands underneath a chance to dismiss Ryan ten Doeschate.
What mattered is that he tried. Because less than half an hour earlier Scott had dropped two straightforward catches off Jesse Ryder before facing the ignominy of making a fielding error in front of the famously boisterous Chelmsford crowd. With them barracking behind him it would have been far easier for Scott to let ten Doeschate's lofted straight drive come to him on the bounce, but he ran, he dived - he tried.
Scott's attempt at long-off was adjudged after TV replays to have bounced and, by a marginal decision, ten Doeschate was not given out. Middlesex lost this match comfortably, but for a team rooted to the bottom of the South Group and blooding a youthful team for the future, this was a night in which the result didn't really matter.
Indeed there was, just a handful of overs into Essex's chase of Middlesex's 150 for 5, a heavy sense of resignation in Dawid Malan's voice as he spoke almost wistfully to the Sky Sports commentators about a total he felt was "well under-par" and how his team was "well up against it." Essex's chase was just a few overs old. Of course, Malan was right, but it was revealing to get a sense of Middlesex's resignation in this match against an in-form Essex team.
Middlesex actually made a fairer fist of it than many would have predicted. After winning the toss and electing to bat Middlesex lost Malan in the first over, but the coming together of Nick Gubbins and John Simpson provided them with a strong base. The pair carried Middlesex to 54 for 1 by the end of the Powerplay and 78 for 1 before Simpson was dismissed.
It was in the ensuing middle overs that Middlesex lost the match, and, rather intriguingly it was then that England's T20 and ODI captain Eoin Morgan was at the crease. Essex bowled well and shuffled their bowlers regularly.
The variation provided by Shaun Tait, Graeme Napier, Reece Topley, Ravi Bopara and Tom Westley saw eleven consecutive single-figure overs tick by between the sixth and the seventeenth over. Simpson, Gubbins and Ryan Higgins all fell within 26 balls as the demands of the conditions squeezed the Middlesex batsmen into mistakes and they struggled to find fluency.
The tight middle-overs ensured that even 33 coming off the last three could not take the visitors towards a competitive total. Morgan was dismissed in the penultimate over for a 25-ball 29 and Middlesex's 150-5 was 26 lower than the next lowest score batting first at Chelmsford this season. It was never going to be enough.
Essex hit more boundaries in the first 12 balls of their innings, seven, than Middlesex managed in their last 89. It was Ryder who did the bulk of the damage and after facing just six balls he was 22 not out and would go onto score 59 from 27. Mark Pettini was dismissed in the fourth over of the chase but by the time Essex ended the Powerplay 64 for 1 the match was as good as over.
Middlesex fought hard with the ball. Gurjit Sandhu and Harry Podmore, both young bowlers, collected impressive figures of 1 for 19 and 2 for 28 respectively and the team ended up collecting six wickets between them, but with Westley striking a useful 45 the result was never in doubt, not of course that the result really mattered to Middlesex.
For Essex, by contrast, this result was precious. Having lost four of their first five matches they now stand one win away from qualification for the quarter-finals.
Interestingly, five of Middlesex's team for this match, Gubbins, Higgins, Scott, Podmore and Sandhu, were involved a day earlier in Middlesex winning the Second XI T20 Cup, a result that matters far more to a county planning for the future. As for Chelmsford, Scott will learn from days like these and will hope it makes him a better cricketer.