Player of the Match
Player of the Match

Gloucestershire give McCullum losing debut

Gloucestershire 163 for 6 (Dent 45, Cockbain 40) beat Middlesex 159 for 9 (Stirling 60, Voges 52*) by four wickets

When Colin Graves drew opprobrium in the shires for describing the T20 Blast as 'mediocre', this is surely the T20 Blast he had in mind.

In some ways, Graves was just oh so depressingly right. As hard as Middlesex toiled to make this fixture work, the weather was so cold that umpire Neil Mallender wore gloves, the light so terrible that it seemed a miracle that the game was completed and, consequently, a crowd of a tick over 2,100 - in the circumstances, a success - showed up.

As with this competition as a whole, just too much was left to the chance of a sunny evening to be an adequate spectator experience. And, given not a soul was able to watch on TV (the broadcasters' sole contribution was sending a single camera), the spectator experience is all that matters. When a sluggish pitch and a Neil Shipperley-paced outfield were thrown in, as pretty and quaint as all this was, it did not really feel like T20 cricket at all; one senses that this is not quite what Stuart Robertson had in mind when he founded the format 13 years ago. The Big Bash was not looking north green-eyed.

Such are the perils of a 135-game season. Yet take a look at the talent on display, particularly in Middlesex's top order but also in Gloucestershire's workmanlike side, and it is clear how much the Blast had going for it. Brendon McCullum, making his debut for the club, Dawid Malan and Eoin Morgan all failed, yet - having, inevitably, given the light, elected to bat - still cobbled together a score good enough to take the game to the penultimate ball thanks to half-centuries from Paul Stirling and Adam Voges.

The hardy folk who came to see McCullum bat got five balls worth of value. He nudged the first two - with the crowd utterly silent - into the offside, defended the third, then smashed the fourth against a strong wind over cow for six; just as the party had started, though, he toed into the legside - losing his bat in the process - and Graeme van Buuren ran round to take a return catch. Three balls later, Michael Klinger, back-peddling from slip, took a fine diving catch to dismiss Malan.

Stirling immediately found his flow, pulling Andrew Tye's first ball for six and cutting powerfully, but Morgan was more watchful. After a series of hard-run singles, Morgan hoicked Tom Smith for six, but tamely clothed the excellent Benny Howell to long-off next ball. Stirling and Voges got to work, with the former hitting van Buuren for a straight six, then cover driving Howell. He became the third Middlesex batsman to get out a ball after clearing the ropes, skying Howell to the wicketkeeper.

Voges, who finished unbeaten on 52, manned a rather chaotic ending, joined briefly by some lusty slogger Toby Roland-Jones, who was twice dropped at cover by Klinger, before becoming Tye's second victim, caught at third man. The next two balls, the last of the innings, saw James Fuller and Harry Podmore run out. As Stirling said after, 159 seemed par, but nothing more.

Roland-Jones ensured Middlesex's defence got off to the perfect start, bowling Klinger in his first over and having Hamish Marshall caught at point in his second. Iain Cockbain and Chris Dent settled in, however, to share 65 and appeared to be breezing home. Cockbain was strong through midwicket, particularly to Ravi Patel's spin, while Dent twice turned the seamers through square leg for four.

When Cockbain sent Franklin straight down long-on's throat, Dent charged on in the sprightly company of Howell, before being brilliantly stumped by John Simpson off Stirling. From there, with Howell skying to Patel off his own bowling and Jack Taylor superbly worked by the rather wild and ragged Fuller, who let a beamer slip, fell in consecutive overs to keep Middlesex, whose fielding had become ragged, interested.

So to the final over, with barely any light remaining, and nine required. Podmore found three perfect deliveries, but Gareth Roderick then sliced past a diving point and clipped sweetly to leg for a handsome six to seal Gloucestershire's eighth consecutive T20 win over Middlesex. The finish, for those who could see it through the gloom, was not so mediocre at all.

Gloucs 2nd innings Partnerships

1st5M KlingerHJH Marshall
2nd11HJH MarshallIA Cockbain
3rd65IA CockbainCDJ Dent
4th39BAC HowellCDJ Dent
5th19BAC HowellJMR Taylor
6th12JMR TaylorGH Roderick
7th12GL van BuurenGH Roderick