Middlesex v Hampshire - Match Report

A tense final day finish saw Hampshire clinch a narrow three-wicket win against Middlesex in the Bob Willis Trophy

Day One

Ryan Stevenson and Martin Andersson recorded career bests for their respective sides as Middlesex and Hampshire fought out an absorbing first day of their Bob Willis Trophy encounter at Radlett.

Devon-born seamer Stevenson, recalled for only his sixth first-class game, took 4-71, doubling his first-class wicket tally in the process, but Andersson, a man with just eight first-class matches behind him hit 92 to take the hosts to 252 all out.

Liam Dawson (2-39), Keith Barker (2-44) and James Fuller (2-54) were also among the wickets, seemingly justifying Sam Northeast’s decision to bowl first, but James Harris took two wickets to leave the visitors 27-2 in reply after a seesaw day of action.

Northeast’s decision to field raised eyebrows given their hosts opted for two spinners on a pitch expected to turn late in the match.

However, in humid conditions and thanks to some early seam movement, it didn’t take the visitors’ attack long to reward their captain’s faith.

In just the third over Keith Barker (2-44) bowled Sam Robson for a duck with a beauty which clipped the top of off-stump.

Nick Gubbins, fresh from his hundred in the win over Surrey also didn’t stay long. The left-hander got away with one top edge hook over the slips, only to play the shot again in the same over and hole out to Felix Organ at fine leg, so giving Fuller a wicket against his former county.

And when the Stevenson got in on the act for the first time, trapping home skipper Stevie Eskinazi for 18, Middlesex were struggling at 41-3.

That was Andersson’s cue to enter the fray and he played positively from the off, steadying the ship in the company of opener Max Holden either side of the lunch interval.

Holden was dropped at slip by Ian Holland off the luckless Barker early in the afternoon, but the drop wasn’t costly as the same combination accounted for the left-hander for 36 shortly afterwards – a wonderful catch taken just millimetres from the turf to end a stand of 44.

Andersson was given his one life on 23 when Dawson spilt a difficult chance at slip and he went on to make the most of his reprieve, reaching 50 from 71 balls with eight fours.

He found a staunch ally in wicketkeeper John Simpson, who after a sticky start hit Barker for three successive fours.

Dawson dropped Simpson on 26, but like Holland earlier atoned soon afterwards to give Stevenson a second wicket and end a stand of 93 for the fifth wicket.

Dawson, back from England ODI duty then struck with the ball having James Harris taken at slip off the last ball before tea.

Six more boundaries took Anderson past his previous best of 83 against Lancashire at Old Trafford last September and to within touching distance of a maiden first-class hundred, but he came up eight short when Fuller trapped him LBW.

Tom Helm and Nathan Sowter added useful runs for the eighth wicket before Stevenson returned to dismiss the latter and Thilan Walallawita off successive balls to cap his excellent day.

Helm (31) ensured a second batting point by striking Dawson for a towering straight six, but Dawson had him caught and bowled later in the same over.

With 14 overs left to bat, Hampshire looked set to get to the close unscathed before Harris found the edge of Organ’s bat and Sowter took a sharp catch at second slip.

Barker was sent in as night-watchman, but that plan backfired when Harris struck a second time with one that splayed the stumps, leaving the match intriguingly poised ahead of day two.

Day Two

Liam Dawson was stretchered off with what looked a serious ankle injury to mar a productive day for Hampshire in their Bob Willis Trophy match against Middlesex at Radlett.

The 30-year-old, who was part of England’s white-ball squad for their recent ODI series against Ireland, fell awkwardly while batting during the final session and had to be carried from the field.

Dawson’s attacking knock of 43 had already helped Hampshire to take a first-innings lead when he crumpled to the ground, visibly in pain after playing a defensive shot against Tom Helm.

There was a 15-minute delay while Dawson received treatment at the wicket, but it was already evident he would be unable to continue.

Despite that setback, the visitors ended the second day in a strong position, with opener Joe Weatherley falling just two short of what would have been his second first-class century and captain Sam Northeast hitting 51 as they dominated the Middlesex bowling.

Hampshire had appeared set for an uphill battle when they lost Tom Alsop (4) in the third over of the day, the left-hander edging a rising delivery from Tom Helm as John Simpson leapt to take the catch.

That left the visitors in an unsteady position at 28-3 – and it could have been worse as Weatherley and Northeast survived chances to second slip before their partnership had really been established.

The pair made Middlesex pay as they accumulated a fourth-wicket partnership of 139, with Weatherley stroking a midwicket boundary off Tim Murtagh (2-49) to raise his half-century off 157 balls.

The skipper, meanwhile, also reached his 50 in style, slamming Helm for four through the covers – but he departed in the next over after left-arm spinner Thilan Wallalawita returned for his second spell of the day.

Wallalawita’s second delivery tempted Northeast to cut, but the ball sailed towards gully, where Sowter – now relocated from second slip – gathered the catch safely.

Weatherley, who went to tea on 90, had rarely looked in anything resembling a hurry during the first two sessions, but he resumed in attacking mode, driving Murtagh’s first two balls of the evening for boundaries to advance to 98.

However, the batsman would get no further as he was adjudged leg before in Murtagh’s next over, attempting to flick a straight ball off his pads.

But Middlesex were unable to capitalise on the breakthrough as Dawson maintained the tempo, hooking Harris for successive fours and putting on 51 for the sixth wicket with Ian Holland.

Holland, who had taken 20 deliveries to get off the mark, eventually contributed a breezy 22 to steer his side past the Seaxes’ first-innings total before Harris had him caught in the slips.

That, along with Dawson’s injury, slowed Hampshire’s momentum and they also lost Harry Came (5), lbw to Sowter in the penultimate over as they reached stumps 27 runs ahead of their hosts.

Day Three

Felix Organ stepped into the breach to bowl injury-hit Hampshire into a winning position with a four-wicket haul against Middlesex at Radlett.

Organ was called on to send down 13 overs of off-breaks during Middlesex’s second innings after a second freak injury in as many days, to seamer Ryan Stevenson, deprived the visitors of two frontline bowlers.

But the 21-year-old responded with figures of 4-42 – his second-best return in red-ball cricket – as the home side were dismissed for 201 to leave Hampshire chasing a victory target of 158.

Although they lost two wickets – and will probably have just nine fit batsmen – Sam Northeast’s side advanced to 60-2 at stumps and go into the final day as clear favourites to clinch their first victory in the Bob Willis Trophy.

The visitors had resumed their first innings in the morning with a 27-run advantage – which they extended by another 17 before Tim Murtagh (4-61) claimed the last two wickets inside the first half-hour.

Middlesex quickly wiped out their 44-run deficit, with Max Holden (26) playing some attacking shots before Keith Barker (2-53) had him caught behind.

But play was held up soon afterwards when Stevenson, chasing Sam Robson’s leg-side drive to the boundary, skidded into a pitchside marquee and gashed his shin on one of the supporting poles.

Even without both Stevenson and spinner Liam Dawson – who had sustained an Achilles tendon injury while batting the previous day – Hampshire’s remaining bowlers were able to peg their hosts back.

Ian Holland picked up the wicket of Robson (21) just before lunch, but Nick Gubbins and Middlesex captain Stephen Eskinazi threatened to seize control of the game as they put together a partnership of 54.

Gubbins was progressing nicely, with 46 from 65 deliveries, until he was given out leg before to former team-mate James Fuller – although it appeared the ball might have taken the left-hander’s inside edge before hitting the pad.

However, his dismissal prompted a clatter of wickets, with Eskinazi (29) top-edging a sweep into the hands of deep square leg in Organ’s next over and Martin Andersson (12) neatly yorked by Fuller (2-58).

A blinding catch at cover by substitute Brad Wheal removed Nathan Sowter (3) to reward Holland (2-39) for his tidy spell, while Organ also trapped John Simpson lbw for 23 before returning to take two more wickets post-tea.

Murtagh (8) registered a couple of boundaries off Barker to lift the Middlesex total above 200 before edging the left-armer to second slip, leaving Hampshire to face 26 overs ahead of stumps.

Organ and Joe Weatherley – who top scored with 98 in Hampshire’s first innings – made steady progress until James Harris produced the breakthrough in his first over, tempting Organ (10) to prod at an outswinger.

Left-arm spinner Thilan Wallalawita matched that feat by having Tom Alsop (13), who had just survived a sharp chance to short leg, caught at first slip with his fifth delivery to leave Hampshire 48-2.

But Weatherley (23*) and Northeast (8*) batted sensibly until the close, bringing the target down to just 98 going into day four.

Day Four

Joe Weatherley was Hampshire’s hero as he kept his cool with an unbeaten half-century to clinch a tense three-wicket victory against Middlesex in the Bob Willis Trophy.

The opener – who top-scored with 98 in the first innings – stood firm again despite a clatter of wickets on the fourth morning at Radlett, sealing Hampshire’s success with a cover-driven boundary off Tom Helm as he finished 64 not out.

Weatherley shared an unbroken eighth-wicket stand of 53 with Keith Barker (28*) to steer the visitors over the line after Tim Murtagh (3-41 ) and Thilan Walallawita (3-28 ) had raised Middlesex hopes of an unlikely triumph.

The pair reduced their opponents to 108-7 – with Liam Dawson already out of the game due to a torn Achilles tendon and last man Ryan Stevenson, who was also injured after colliding with a marquee pole while fielding on the previous day, standing by to bat with a runner if necessary.

Hampshire began play as clear favourites at 60-2, needing another 98 for victory, but they were checked by Murtagh’s second ball of the day, which Sam Northeast (8) edged onto his pad for Max Holden to scoop up the catch at point.

New batsman Ian Holland was fortunate to survive his first delivery, which found the edge but was spilled by second slip Nathan Sowter and he took advantage with some attacking shots that raised the run-rate.

Left-armer Walallawita applied the brakes, stemming the flow of runs to a trickle and piling renewed pressure on the Hampshire batsmen – which Murtagh gratefully exploited at the other end.

Sowter made amends for his earlier drop, taking the catch off Murtagh to prise out Holland (17) and, when Harry Came (1) fell to a tumbling Sam Robson at first slip, the visitors were in trouble at 87-5.

While Weatherley dropped anchor, Lewis McManus took up the baton with a quickfire 13, but he was bamboozled playing back to Walallawita, who then had James Fuller (0) caught behind prodding outside off the stump in his next over.

However, Barker – hobbling throughout due to a foot injury – revived Hampshire’s hopes by reverse-sweeping Walallawita to the boundary and picking up four more with an on-drive off James Harris.

Weatherley completed his half-century, from 159 balls, during the second over after lunch, driving Sowter through mid-on for four, while Barker weighed in with two more boundaries before his partner applied the finishing touch.