A night at the T20 – Essex Eagles soar to victory over hapless Middlesex

Lords on a Thursday night was bursting and buzzing with energy, noise and people, London office workers making their way to the home of cricket for an evening out. It did not seem to matter really who was playing or where the respective teams were in the league standings, these T20 nights seem to have taken on a life of their own. A few ales, some chat, a bit of office gossip and banter, oh and a few sixes to boot. A good night out in store for all.

And so it proved. Sixes galore and excitement aplenty in what proved to be a real crackerjack of a match. Essex Eagles, well supported by some of their city boys and boorish east enders, were given plenty of vocal encouragement and, as the evening progressed, the atmosphere resembled a scene from a stand at Crystal Palace, both sides sharing the same nickname.

Worse still for the home support, the Eagles chants became interspersed with repeated renditions of “ooh Ravi Bopara” as the Essex stalwart helped ease his side to victory with some glorious shot placement and experience of just how to win a cricket match. His one over for two runs earlier was also of importance but why he only bowled the one solitary over remains a mystery.

Bopara was well supported in the final knockings by Ashar Zaidi, short and squat and, like Bopara, ruthless in punishing any loose bowling and fielding. He had come to the right place. Middlesex’s bowling was wayward, their catching and fielding error strewn and Zaidi made the most of it. He hit five boundaries in a matter of balls to hammer the final nail in the Middlesex coffin in a match that the home side really should have won having made their highest score at Lords in this form of cricket.

That they did not was because of the general ineptitude of their outfielding, dropping at least four catches and allowing too many balls to pass  through to the boundary, as well as the clean striking of Dan Lawrence, who made a brutal 86 off only 45 balls, in combination with Varun Chopra who contributed 51 off 31 balls.  Then Bopara and Zaidi administered the final blows.

For Middlesex, they were yet again indebted to their Irish opener Paul Stirling, destructive as ever in making 78 and, on a relatively rare occasion in a Middlesex shirt, his fellow Irishman, Eoin Morgan. Morgan can be something of an enigma when at the crease and, as he proved here, is invariably best when he plays himself in, becomes accustomed to the pace of the pitch and then unleashes his big shots. Twice here he struck three sixes in an over to score 77, in an innings of brute, power and timing. James Fuller’s 25 run cameo of only 11 balls at the death took Middlesex up to a total of 210 which, should have been more than enough.

It proved not to be as the Essex Eagles, struggling themselves in this form of cricket, more than rose to the challenge and deservedly took the spoils, winning the match with only 4 balls to spare.

It was a thrilling finale in which the inebriated packed crowd more than played their part and, as Lords eventually emptied out, the bars and curry houses in the St John’s Wood and Baker Street area  had a bumper trading night. And it all starts again shortly tonight in towns and cities around the country as the next bunch of Vitality Blast T20 matches begin.

Fast cricket, quick action, here today and gone tomorrow. It is the way that cricket is being consumed in this era and its commercial success is without question. Yet for the cricketing connoisseur, for Test Match cricket, questions will forever remain. It is the eternal dilemma on the cricketing calendar and whilst Lords and other grounds throughout the country can sell out on Thursday and Friday nights, and produce the excitement of this match, then this form of cricket is very much here to stay, and for a long time too,

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