Middlesex 277 (Taylor 64, Batty 4-29) beat Surrey 240 (Foakes 71, Sowter 4-37, Helm 4-40) by 37 runs
It wasn't quite the Manchester Derby in terms of hype, expectation or even mixed emotions, but Middlesex duly sealed the London spoils in the Royal London Cup, thanks to an intelligently crafted 37-run victory over their hosts and most passionate rivals, Surrey, at the Kia Oval.
In an entertaining contest blessed by unexpectedly clear skies and a slow-boil finish, Middlesex sealed their third win in four 50-over outings, and broke into the top half of the South Group to boot. This was thanks to a disciplined all-round display that never quite touched the heights but showcased depths of resolve, with bat and ball alike, to out-muscle a side that has once again failed to transfer their Championship poise to the shorter format.
Chasing 278 to win, Surrey's finale hinged on the exploits of Ben Foakes, England's discarded Test wicketkeeper, who reprised the same unruffled attributes that had so impressed on his debut tour of Sri Lanka to keep his side in touch with an ever-mounting run-rate. Had he had a touch more support, his 71 from 80 balls could have tipped the balance, but with Toby Roland-Jones and Tom Helm banging out a disciplined length at the death, victory was duly sealed with 2.1 overs to spare.
One of Middlesex's stated aims at the start of the season had been to make amends for several seasons of white-ball stasis, and to have a bit more fun along the way while doing so, given how lugubrious the atmosphere has been around the club since the Championship triumph of 2016. With Stuart Law handing his players licence to have a proper go, they were able to celebrate in style when Gareth Batty holed out to wide long-on to give the legspinner Nathan Sowter the fourth wicket of an impressively attacking spell.
Victory hadn't looked anything like as probable in the early stages of the contest, however. After winning the toss under overcast skies, Middlesex were obliged to scrounge their way to a serviceable total of 277 in 49.3 overs - overcoming a four-horseman-style seam battery led by the international beanpoles Morne Morkel and Liam Plunkett, as well as another ageless display of canny offspin from the 41-year-old Batty, whose ten-over figures of 4 for 29 included a run of 3 for 1 in six balls that looked set - at 185 for 8 in the 36th over - to be the defining spell of the match.
Instead, Roland-Jones and Sowter were on hand with a beefy helping of tail-end humpty, adding 56 in 9.4 overs for the ninth wicket to rescue their side from imminent meltdown, and build on the earlier efforts of their newest overseas star, Ross Taylor - whose county debut was confirmed before the toss when their other senior international, Eoin Morgan, withdrew with sore shins.
Taylor's 64 from 78 balls kept the Seaxes swinging after their top three had come and gone with predictable urgency - Paul Stirling, Dawid Malan and John Simpson all made starts without going past 20, seeking to replicate the have-a-go recipe that has served England's top order so well of late, albeit with less lasting impact.
But the manner in which Middlesex throttled back once it was clear that the going wouldn't be entirely smooth was impressive. From 70 for 4, Taylor's injection of calm class was just the tonic for the innings, as he marshalled the middle overs in partnership with Nick Gubbins, whose 33 from 50 balls was a key part of a 79-run stand that was only ended by the ball of the match from Plunkett, a ripper that seamed past the outside edge to kiss the top of off and confirm once again that England's most scrutinised bowler is finding some ominous and timely form.
But Surrey's lack of killer instinct in the closing overs let them down. Roland-Jones led the way, hanging back in his crease to hoick three fours and two sixes in a 39-ball 45, with Will Jacks luring a pair of stumpings, the latter off Sowter down the leg side, to end the fightback with three balls of the innings to spare.
It would prove more than enough in the final reckoning. And it means that Surrey, with one win from four matches to date, including an 88-all-out humiliation against Gloucestershire last week, are already playing catch-up in a competition that their depth of talent and resource ought to be faring better in.
"We let it slip a little in the last ten, they played well, but 270-odd was a below-par total on that surface," said Surrey's coach, Michael Di Venuto.
"Just having one partnership is not going to win you a game, we got starts from the majority of the batters, but no-one took responsibility apart from Ben Foakes, who played superbly again."