David Hopps writes on county cricket for ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps
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Glamorgan 238 for 3 (Cooke 113*, Ingram 92*) beat Middlesex 209 for 5 (Cracknell 77, Eskinazi 59) by 29 runs
Middlesex's captain Stephen Eskinazi had finished the first match at Merchant Taylor's School two days earlier, incandescent about how a seemingly straightforward run-chase had coagulated when victory seemed certain. This time runs came in a torrent at the end of an innings, just as they are meant to. The only problem for Middlesex was that they belonged to Glamorgan.
Glamorgan set their highest T20 score, 238 for 3, as they pulverised 72 from the last three overs on the same ground where Middlesex - with Gloucestershire the grateful opposition - had failed to get nine from the last two on the same pitch: a stark comparison that might well have entered Eskinazi's consciousness on the journey home.
Either Chris Cooke or Colin Ingram, both South African-born, could have reached their hundred with a couple more prodigious blows as Glamorgan's innings entered its final over - by that time it largely depended who was on strike - but it was Cooke who made 113 from 51 balls while Ingram had to settle for 92 from 66. Staggeringly, Cooke moved from 50 to 100 in only 12 balls, a sequence including five sixes and four fours.
John Simpson, Middlesex's experienced wicketkeeper, and one of the two senior players at the crease as Middlesex failed to beat Gloucestershire, had been dropped for this game. Ryan Higgins, the other culprit, might have wished he had been too as his wayward four overs disappeared for 62. The all-rounder's much-heralded return home from Gloucestershire has been followed by good Championship returns but is yet to bear fruit in the Blast.
Blake Cullen was the only bowler to escape the carnage, returning 2 for 23, most of his overs bowled as Glamorgan wandered to 51 for 3 in 6.5 overs, but Tom Helm was flayed to the tune of 0 for 69, his last two overs going for 25 and 27 respectively, the worst figures ever by a Middlesex bowler in the format.
Ingram already has four T20 hundreds; this was Cooke's first and, 37 now, he celebrated the achievement as only a player who feels the shadows lengthening on his career can. Helm, Middlesex's most potent T20 bowler, began the last over with Cooke still 12 short, but he deposited two full-length balls, the first one a slower ball, over deep midwicket with the sort of repetitive clean hitting that had characterised an increasingly out-of-control partnership of 187 in 79 balls.
"It's the first time I've played here, so hopefully I can come back as it's a great place to bat," Cooke said. "We had 180 as a par score which wouldn't have been enough. I'd like to think I've hit the ball close to as good as that before, but I didn't really have a T20 hundred in my career on my radar, with me batting at five or six, so it's amazing to get it."
Middlesex would have had to achieve a record score batting second to overhaul Glamorgan's total - the highest is Sussex's 233 for 6 last summer, and even they lost at Chelmsford - but Eskinazi and James Cracknell provided a platform with a stand of 146 in 12 overs before both fell reverse-sweeping. They needed one more innings of substance, but instead delivered a meek mish-mash of half-baked strokes as Glamorgan's bowlers proved far more resilient.
Cracknell, like so many white-ball specialists in county cricket, deserves great credit for early-season success. Preparation time can be limited as the switch is made from the Championship format in which he takes no part. "It's been a really odd season," he conceded. "I've had one red-ball innings in the 2s so to go from that and be told you are opening the innings in the white-ball stuff with little practice and middle time has been strange. But I've been given the backing and this is the format I've had most success in so I'm feeling good."
Most eye-catching was Peter Hatzoglou, the "accidental cricketer", whose background in risk consulting presumably helped him put Middlesex's response into perspective. Hatzoglou approaches like a conjurer - all ball tosses and feverish arms - and it was enough to delude Cracknell as he tried to reverse-sweep a long hop that had strayed wide outside off stump and his lifted foot enabled Cooke to complete a stumping. Hatzoglou's second wicket was Pieter Malan, Middlesex's sole overseas player, who was bowled by a faster delivery as he attempted a leg-side heave. Prem Sisodiya turned in another good shift on a good night for Glamorgan's spinners.
The Blast is never more rural than the week or so when Middlesex temporarily abandon Lord's for the delights of Merchant Taylor's School and Radlett. It feels as if the tenants of a stately home have suddenly upped sticks and gone on a camping holiday, exchanging the silver service and an attentive butler for a soggy beefburger on a plastic plate.
The runs flow, so much so that it puts some tired county squares to shame, the settings are delightful and its all jolly nice, reminiscent of some of the outgrounds used when 40-over cricket saved county cricket from financial disaster half a century ago. It has its place, but it would be counter-intuitive, at best, to argue that it is what the Blast needs if it is to retain its status as a global T20 tournament worthy of attention.
It also puts the financial position of Middlesex into focus. With the club' assets last quoted as down to £179,000, a fall from around £2m in two years, they even invited questions from the ECB about what was going on. In terms of perentage of income, no county is subsidised more heavily.
Playing at Lord's gives Middlesex an air of privilege, but they are more in tune with the average millennial in that it's hard to see how they will ever afford their own home. Whenever they play at Lord's, MCC get £16,000 as the cost of staging the game and 30% of whatever proceeds remain. Play on an outground and a convivial crowd of a few thousand is not about to transform the finances unless a hedge fund manager gets tipsy in the bar after the game and agrees a sponsorship deal. They have to cut their cloth to suit - appropriate enough on the cricket ground of a school founded by a group of craftsmen tailors. Those tailors might have warned that going out of fashion is a very dangerous thing.
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