Middlesex ended a 15-year wait for silverware yesterday by claiming a tense three-run victory over the holders Kent.
Middlesex lift Twenty20 Cup
SOUTHAMPTON // Middlesex ended a 15-year wait for silverware yesterday by claiming a tense three-run victory over the holders Kent to lift the Twenty20 Cup at the Rose Bowl. Without any trophy of note since winning the County Championship in 1993, Middlesex opened the gates to massive financial rewards by restricting Kent to 184 for five in reply to their daunting total of 187 for six. Their stunning triumph secures Middlesex's place in Antigua later this year to play in a series of challenge matches against Trinidad and Tobago and England, which could earn each member of their squad thousands of pounds, plus a potential £2.5million (Dh18.2m) in prize money for winning the Champions League.
Needing 16 for victory off the final over, Middlesex looked to have thrown away the chance of victory when a four-run overthrow from Dawid Malan left Kent needing only six off three balls. But seamer Tyron Henderson kept his nerve and bowled two successive dot balls to finish the game and secure a famous triumph for Middlesex. Having won the toss and deciding to bat first in the final, the onus was on Middlesex to set a competitive enough total to stretch Kent's talented line-up.
They suffered an early setback with opener Billy Godleman being bowled by Pakistan seamer Yasir Arafat in the third over, but that just accelerated the arrival of Henderson, the hard-hitting South African, at the crease. He played a key role in the semi-final win over Durham earlier in the day and once again provided the impetus for Middlesex by hammering 44 off 33 balls, which included four fours and two sixes. But just as he seemed set to unleash another really destructive innings, Henderson drove the all-rounder Ryan McLaren towards the Kent captain Rob Key at cover who claimed the catch and third umpire Richard Illingworth ruled the catch legal after it was referred.
It promised to be a key moment in the final, but with nine overs remaining the England batsman Owais Shah picked up Henderson's mantle in devastating fashion and propelled Middlesex to their massive total. Shah took a particular liking to off-spinner James Tredwell, hitting him for three successive sixes and effectively hitting him out of the attack during a stunning innings of 75 off only 25 balls. His innings, which included five sixes and six fours, was ended when he was bowled by McLaren with three overs remaining with Middlesex on course to break the 200-barrier.
They failed to reach that target primarily because of Pakistan seamers Azhar Mahmood and Arafat, who combined superbly in the final three overs to concede only 18 runs and claim two further wickets with a mixture of slower balls and yorkers. Needing a solid start if they were to have any chance of overhauling Middlesex's total, they were given one with the captain Key dominating an 89-run stand spanning only nine overs with opening partner Joe Denly. Key hit a six and nine fours in his 52 off 28 balls but once again Middlesex's spinners dragged the game back in their direction with 39-year-old Shaun Udal claiming one for 21 from his four overs on his return to his former Hampshire home. His efforts earmarked Middlesex as strong favourites going into the final over but a disastrous throw from Malan from long off evaded several fielders and the wicketkeeper and allowed Justin Kemp and Azhar Mahmood to run four and set up a thrilling climax. But Henderson bowled successive dot balls off the final two deliveries with Kemp run out on 49 to seal Middlesex's triumph and possible path to untold riches in the new era of Twenty20 cricket. Kent had reached their second successive final with a 14-run victory in the opening semi-final this morning against Essex, whose bid for the final stumbled on two run-outs in the final stages of their innings. Chasing Kent's competitive total of 173 for seven, Essex were given a flying start with openers Ravi Bopara and Mark Pettini forging a 78-run stand in 10 overs. But their challenge faded with 61 required off the final six overs with Grant Flower being run out after a brilliant stop at backward point from Martin van Jaarsveld and later the same over Pettini, who top-scored with 54 off 47 balls, ran himself out after driving to mid-off. Ryan ten Doeschate revived Essex's challenge by hitting 18 off nine balls - including a six and a four off successive balls from van Jaarsveld's occasional spin - but was bowled in the penultimate over by Azhar Mahmood and they were restricted to 159 for eight. Middlesex's progress to the final was far more comfortable after they cruised to an eight-wicket victory with 4.2 overs remaining after restricting favourites Durham to a modest 138 for six. Having won the toss and deciding to bat first, Durham's powerful line-up struggled to find any momentum and were strangled by Middlesex's spin pair with Shaun Udal and Murali Kartik conceding only 36 runs in eight overs bowling in tandem. Durham's spinners made an impact when Middlesex replied with Paul Wiseman and Gareth Breeze claiming wickets in successive overs, but Henderson took the game away from them in dramatic fashion. Henderson hammered an unbeaten 59 off only 21 balls, which included two fours and seven sixes, and wrecked the figures of Steve Harmison on the day he learned of his England recall and he conceded 47 runs in only 3.4 overs. But his key contribution was not to be until the final over of the day when his clear thinking with the final two deliveries of the match secured Middlesex's trip to Antigua. *PA Sport