Middlesex 200 for 5 (Bailey 55, Simpson 43, Morgan 42) beat Surrey 196 for 6 (Finch 78, Roy 50) by five wickets
A thrilling match, in front of a record crowd, broadcast on TV and with the very best on show taking star turns. The T20 Blast has not always been able to get all those ingredients into the same pot. But tonight, everything seemed to fall into place.
The attendance of 27,119 is now a domestic record for Twenty20 cricket in the UK. Lord's also happens to hold the record for an international, too, when the 2009 World T20 final reeled in over 28,000. There were a couple factors that threatened today's record.
Severe delays on the Jubilee Line had some punters thinking twice about joining the clammy rush-hour scrum to St John's Wood. The walk from Baker Street station, normally a leisurely stroll past some of Sherlock Holmes' old watering holes, was a steady stream of fans frog-marching cooler bags along the westerly brim of Regent's Park. Middlesex's own form, too, might have encouraged some diehards to stay away to avoid the gloating bellows of their rivals from south London, who had enjoyed a six-game winning streak at Lord's before the tables turned last season.
But just as bigger steps cut down the 20-minute walk, signal failures rectified from Bond Street, and the opening of the Warner Stand (roof still to be attached) increased the potential for a bumper crowd, so too did Middlesex's rediscovered knack of winning short form games. There is a marked difference to the way they are now approaching Twenty20 cricket.
Dawid Malan, following his appointment as white-ball captain, has ensured that elements of Middlesex's T20 plans are now player-led. That his side triumphed tonight by chasing down a target of 197, with plenty left in the tank, while he, their leading run-scorer in the competition, was slapping Sri Lanka A about for 185 off 126 balls, says it all. With bat and ball, this was a free-form T20 performance that sees them jump to third in the south group, with 13 points from 11 played.
It is worth starting with the chase of 197, done with five balls and as many wickets to spare. Paul Stirling could not have hit a more Paul Stirling 34: cover drives played with a savagery rarely associated with the shot while also finessing a back-of-a-length ball over backward square leg for a dainty six. Eoin Morgan, pushed up to three, then clobbered 42 off 24 balls, which included putting Azhar Mahmood on the roof of the Grandstand. Rarely one for holding the pose or a lingering gaze, even he looked on wistfully at his own majesty.
In the last two months, Morgan has played to 50,000 in a World T20 final at Eden Gardens, stepped out at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in the IPL and then, in his opening T20 Blast fixture, batted on a school ground. A lot is made of Morgan's appetite for English domestic cricket, but who can blame him when life outside it sees him on Broadway. He showed today what keeps him going - a challenge, an atmosphere, a prize to be won. Never mind attracting overseas stars, it's imperative to have a competition that motivates your own.
He departed in the 11th over, one which started with 85 needed from 60 balls. With 30 balls left, that had been chopped down to 37, thanks to a brisk partnership between George Bailey (50) and John Simpson (43 from 26) that was eventually broken for 67. By then, the ask was simply 10 from 14.
Quite how Surrey failed to breach 200, having smashed 80 for none off the first six overs, was a mystery. Once Jason Roy departed at the beginning of the eighth over, for a thrill-a-ball half-century which took just 24 deliveries, the constant fear of boundaries subsided. The 10 overs that followed the Powerplay saw just 74 scored. Surrey's middle order has long been a problem area masked by the dashers up top. For them to evolve as a T20 force, it needs addressing.
It was the introduction of legspinner Nathan Sowter that shored Middlesex up, allowing them to retain respectability in the field. Coming on in the seventh over, he returned figures of two for 29 from his four overs: a back-of-the-hand delivery slowing up on Steven Davies, who skewed a drive to gully before Rory Burns, stuck in a rut, top-edged a sweep to John Simpson.
The main squeeze came between the 11th and 16th overs as Sowter and Ryan Higgins bowled in tandem for a five-over period that saw 33 runs and just one boundary conceded. Higgins is an interesting case: primarily a batsman, he found himself bowling a few overs here and there during preseason and in the warm-up Twenty20 matches. It was in these fixtures that he surprised coaches and Middlesex's analyst with his ability to seemingly bowl yorkers at will.
Today was the first time that Middlesex really put his newly discovered talents to the test. Initially, his three overs went for just 17 runs - none of them from boundaries. But when Harry Podmore was removed from the attack after a second waist-high full toss, he returned to bowl the remaining five balls of the penultimate over. The first delivery hit straight over his head and into the members by Chris Morris. The very next was caught at midwicket for his first wicket in the T20 Blast. He was the only bowler that restricted Finch to less than a run a ball.
The individual to benefit most from the squeeze was James Fuller, whose spell at the death, which returned 2 for 14 - he took 2 for 3 in the 20th over - helped offset a catastrophic opening burst that saw him concede 29 from his opening two overs.
Surrey's destiny is now out of their hands. Winning their remaining games will help, but without the goodwill of others, they face another season of T20 disappointment.