Essex battle past Middlesex
Tim Phillips emerged as the Essex hero as they marched towards the quarter-finals of the NatWest Twenty20 Blast competition with a thrilling two-wicket victory over Middlesex.
When Phillips walked to the wicket after James Foster was dismissed by Gurjit Sandhu with the first ball of the 17th over, South Group leaders Essex were still 41 runs short of their target.
However, he rose to the occasion with an unbeaten 33 from 13 deliveries including a four and four sixes - the last of which sealed victory with two balls remaining when he despatched Sandhu over the fine leg fence to delight a capacity Chelmsford crowd.
Essex needed 13 for victory from the final over but Phillips smashed the 22-year-old bowler for another huge six, after also dealing out similar punishment to James Harris, as the visitors had victory snatched from their grasp.
Before Phillips' onslaught, the Middlesex bowlers had kept a tight rein on their opponents - none more so than debutant Harry Podmore and left-arm spinner Ravi Patel.
Podmore announced his arrival by having Jesse Ryder caught on the midwicket boundary by Ryan Higgins with his first delivery and also went on to dismiss Ryan ten Doeschate for 34 in three overs which cost just 20 runs.
Patel underlined the value of line and length and a little bit of turn to concede just 25 in his four overs, which included the wicket of Ravi Bopara - who was caught behind as he pushed forward.
However, Sandhu was found wanting in terms of accuracy and was punished accordingly - particularly when Phillips arrived on the scene.
The Essex bowlers too generally maintained a good line, but the attack was not helped by some lapses in the field which saw them put down three catches.
One of the Middlesex players to benefit was Eoin Morgan, who had only 10 against his name when off-spinner Tom Westley failed to hold on to a not-too-difficult return catch.
Morgan was to make good his escape by holding the innings together with a fine 69 from 46 balls, including seven fours and two sixes.
However, his slowness off the mark going for a second run in the 16th over that cost his side their fifth wicket dented Middlesex's victory hopes.
Morgan pulled ten Doeschate to Reece Topley on the deep midwicket boundary but after hesitating over a second run he was run out by at least three yards as the fielder arrowed the ball in to wicketkeeper Foster.
No one else was able to bat with the same fluency, although Dawid Malan did contribute 28 from 24 balls in a second-wicket partnership that produced 65 in seven overs before he was bowled by Tymal Mills.
Essex skipper ten Doeschate paid tribute to Phillips afterwards, saying: "He has worked hard and taken his chance in fine style.
"Naturally I'm delighted with another win but there needs to be an all-round improvement in our bowling.
Middlesex captain Morgan said: "I was particularly pleased with the efforts of Harry and Ravi.
"They performed exceptionally well in a pressure situation and I am sure they will prove their worth very much more in the future."