Cameron Ponsonby is a freelance cricket writer in London. @cameronponsonby
AUS v WI (W) (1)
WC Warm-up (2)
Irani Cup (1)
T20WC QLF (2)
SA v NZ (W) (1)
Middlesex 172 for 6 (Cracknell 47, Holden 41, Eskinazi 34) beat Glamorgan 168 (Labuschagne 38, Weighell 30, Roland-Jones 4-22, Walallawita 3-18) by four wickets
Further doubts were cast over the fitness of England white-ball captain Eoin Morgan who left the field of play during Middlesex's four-wicket win over Glamorgan with a "twinge in his groin" and did not bat.
At 35, Morgan's career is in its twilight period. A reputation built on the basis of being a world-class batter as well as a ruthless and inspirational leader has given him the power to write his own script as to how he wishes his career to end. The problem, however, has been whether he still has the ability to do so as he wishes.
Morgan is without a T20 half-century since November 2020, which even by his own feast-or-famine standards of form is a particularly lean run, and Sunday's game was just his second in four months after tweaking his quad in Barbados in January and going unselected in the IPL auction.
For years Morgan was a banker for England on the pitch and an ever-present in the world's premier T20 tournament. Now, he is neither, with the added salt in the wound being that as Morgan walked off the field at Radlett CC in front of not many more than a thousand people, his likely successor as white-ball captain Jos Buttler was walking out in front of a 100 times that figure in the IPL final in Ahmedabad. Radlett may be the hometown of Hollywood staple Simon Cowell, but the glitz and glamour of this English village does ultimately end there.
Earlier this week, in an interview with the Evening Standard, Morgan said that he would not be playing in back-to-back matches in this Blast campaign in the hope of avoiding injury. With England's ODI series against the Netherlands likely to see him miss a handful of games in mid-June, he has also handed over the Middlesex T20 captaincy to Stephen Eskinazi.
But even after missing Middlesex's match against Hampshire two days ago, he was unable to complete 20 overs in the field with the time he spent off then preventing him from being able to bat any higher than No. 7 during the home side's successful chase of 168. With the side then almost home when the fifth wicket was lost, Middlesex decided against taking any undue risk though confirmed he would have batted if needed.
Morgan also explained in the interview how "there's nothing specific [injury wise]" that is troubling him, adding: "I'm just old, I think." While honest, that further highlights the concern for England that their captain might not be fit enough to lead them through the summer and to the T20 World Cup in Australia this winter. Not being able to play back-to-back games is all well and good if the second of the two games is in the group stage of the Blast; less so if it's the World Cup final.
This was a comfortable victory for Middlesex after restricting Glamorgan to a total of 168 that never looked enough. Against Gloucestershire at this ground on Thursday, Middlesex scored 229 and even then there was some feeling that they were a dozen or so short after they had been 122 for 2 after 8.5 overs.
To one side, this is a very small ground where boundaries fly; to the other it is a vast expanse where threes are available regularly if the ball hasn't already crashed into the advertising hoardings. The result is runs aplenty, a fact exemplified by the first ball of both innings being dispatched for six.
Labuschagne top scored for Glamorgan with 38 off 24, an innings of two halves where only nine runs came from his first 12 deliveries while 29 came from the second. The problem for Glamorgan was that the moments where their innings was showing the potential of what could be, was in actual fact, what had to be.
Much of the credit for Glamorgan's restriction to 168 was thanks to a fine bowling performance from slow left-armer Thilan Walallawita who recorded career best figures of 3 for 18 off his four overs. Walallawita spoke after the game of playing with a sense of freedom, and how he knew the ground, where Middlesex often play second XI fixtures, like the back of his hand.
Comfortable in his surroundings, the young spinner shone. From his fledgling T20 career, he has a career economy rate of 6.33 and has taken six wickets at an average of 12.67. Meanwhile, Toby Roland-Jones' fine start to the season continued as he picked up 4 for 22, three of which arrived in the final over.
In reply, Middlesex flew out of the blocks, the powerplay coming to an end with the side on 62 for no loss - Eskinazi on 25 off 16 and Max Holden racing to 37 off 20.
Continuing the recent tradition of English cricket, the opening stand broke the back of the chase and despite a middle-over wobble arriving thanks to the spin of Prem Sisodiya - who bowled with control to return figures of 2 for 26 - Middlesex eased their way home with an over to spare thanks to a Joe Cracknell flourish, the 22-year-old finishing with 47 off 28 balls.
A four-wicket win extended Middlesex's perfect start to the Blast after wins against Gloucestershire and Hampshire, and they are still unbeaten this season; as with England, they are showing that Morgan's personal fortunes are not the only determining factor in their results.
Powered by Smart Stats