Middlesex staged an inspiring fightback to see off Sussex Sharks by 63 runs at Lords.
Led by Nathan Sowter who finished with three for 13 and teenager Blake Cullen who returned a career best three for 21, as the hosts comfortably defended a score of 166 for seven.
Sussex won the toss and invited Middlesex to bat first. Openers Stephen Eskinazi and Max Holden put on 59 in the opening six overs powerplay. The pair continued to accumulate runs to give Middlesex a solid base to build on.
It took 16-year-old leg break bowler Archie Lenham to make the break through when Holden(38) holed out in the deep. Eskinazi continued his purple patch in the competition by registering his fourth consecutive score of fifty plus in the Blast. He reached his half century off 29 balls before perishing in the deep off Will Beer for 59. Eskinazi has been in outstanding form in the blast with his fourth score of fifty plus following on from scores of 91 not out, 64 and 102 not out, and is now the leading run scorer in the Blast.
Ravi Bopara, who switched from the nursey end to the pavilion end grabbed the wicket of Daryl Mitchell(12) with a slower ball to leave Middlesex 134 for 3 in the 15th over.
Some tight bowling at the end of the innings from the Sharks restricted Middlesex with Tymal Mills picking up the wickets of Joe Cracknell(21) and John Simpson(5) and Mitchell Claydon bowling Luke Hollman for 10 and Tom Helm(8) caught and bowled David Wiese as Middlesex posted 166 for 7 in their 20 overs after losing four wickets for 23 runs in 23 balls.
In reply Sussex lost Luke Wright(8) very well taken by a fine tumbling catch at mid-off from Steve Finn off Tom Helm’s second delivery. Mujeeb struck in his second over when Phil Salt(6) chipped the ball straight into Eskinazi’s hands at short midwicket to leave Sussex on 29 for 2 in the third over.
The hosts were beginning to start turning the screw with some tidy and economical bowling. Sowter struck with his first delivery by bowling Aaron Thomason for eight. It was then the turn of 19-year-old seamer Cullen to turn away in celebration after Wiese fell for two with the run rate edging towards ten per over.
Cullen grabbed another scalp when Australian Travis Head(23) tried to pull a delivery but was bowled. The key wicket of Ravi Bopara(7) followed shortly afterwards when the former Essex player mistimed a shot and was caught at cover off Sowter to leave Sharks in trouble at 59 for 6.
It was down to a youngster on debut 21-year-old Harrison Ward to show some resistance with a knock of 22, which was ended when he was trapped leg before to Sowter- who finished with outstanding figures of 3 for 13. Those figures were almost matched by Cullen who finished with 3-21 as Sussex slumped to 88 for 8.
The visitors eventually finished on 103 for 9, as Middlesex picked up their third win in the tournament to keep their slim chances of qualifying for the quarter finals alive.
Middlesex vs Sussex Sharks
Vitality Blast Thursday 1st July 2021
Peter Moore at Lords
Middlesex 166-7 (20) Sussex 103-9 (20)
Middlesex won by 63 runs