Panthers gain first win
Joe Denly hit a brilliant unbeaten 98 and 19-year-old Ryan Higgins a fine 44 not out on debut as Middlesex Panthers finally won a game in this season's NatWest T20 Blast by beating Somerset by eight wickets at the Kia Oval.
Playing a home match at Surrey's headquarters for only the second time in Twenty20 cricket, due to Lord's only being available for three floodlit county matches this season, Middlesex romped past Somerset's 152-4 with 2.5 overs to spare to secure their first T20 Blast win at the seventh attempt as Denly and Higgins added an unbroken 128 in 14 overs for the third wicket.
Denly, the 28-year-old former England one-day international batsman, struck four sixes and ten fours from 60 balls to spearhead the chase, while Higgins also shocked Somerset as he contributed two sixes and a four of his own in his 37-ball knock.
While Middlesex celebrated the end of a miserable run of six defeats, which has anchored them to the bottom of the South Division, defeat for Somerset was a blow to their quarter-final qualification hopes.
Somerset have now lost four of their seven group games, despite Craig Kieswetter becoming the first batsman in the country to reach 300 T20 Blast runs this summer as he hit 74 from 59 balls, with a six and seven fours.
It was Kieswetter's fifth half-century in seven T20 innings, and he now has 358 runs at an average of 51.14.
Higgins said: "I just tried to treat it like another Twenty20 innings for the Second XI or whatever, but my life was made much easier by Joe Denly hitting the ball so well at the other end. He was fantastic and it was a very enjoyable debut."
The Middlesex reply got off to a bad start, with Dawid Malan leg-before for a first-ball duck to an inswinger from Peter Trego midway through the opening over.
On the only previous occasion that Middlesex played a home Twenty20 tie at the Oval, in the 2008 quarter-final, Malan hit 103 off 54 balls to inspire a victory against Lancashire.
Eoin Morgan, having got off the mark by hitting Trego over long off for six in a third over in which Denly also cleared the ropes with a beautifully-timed straight hit, was held on the deep mid wicket boundary off Dirk Nannes for seven to leave Middlesex 27-2.
But Denly and Higgins were more than equal to the situation, with the youngster - a right-hander born in Zimbabwe but schooled in Berkshire, where he progressed through the county age group teams to the Middlesex and England Under-19 teams - bringing up the 50 in the sixth over by twice depositing Craig Overton's fast-medium over the mid wicket boundary for six.
From then on, however, he was content to play a sensible supporting role as Denly tore into Somerset's bowling. A pulled six off Overton took him to a 37-ball fifty, and he also pulled Craig Meschede for six in the 14th over before off driving him for another stunning maximum later in the same over. After that, the end came quickly.
Somerset's six powerplay overs realised 49, a good effort by Kieswetter and Chris Jones after the openers had taken just three runs from the first two overs of the innings.
The third over, from James Harris, cost 16 as Kieswetter took him for three fours and then, in the next over, Jones also hit three boundaries off Dan Christian's medium pace as that over went for 14 runs.
Jones fell for 28 in the ninth over, well caught by Neil Dexter above his head on the deep mid wicket ropes as the batsman tried to swing Ravi Patel's left-arm spin for six, and Trego was out for three in similar fashion in Patel's next over, although this time it was a more comfortable catch fo r Dexter.
Alviro Petersen struggled to pick up the pace before being bowled for 14 by left-arm paceman Gurjit Sandhu as he went right across his stumps and fell over in an almost comic attempt to hit the ball to leg.
James Hildreth, though, was quickly away as he twice reverse-swept Ollie Rayner's off breaks for four, and he then lofted Sandhu straight for six after Kieswetter had also driven the same bowler for two fours as 18 runs were plundered from the 19th over.
Kieswetter was finally out in the last over, swinging Harris high towards the deep mid-wicket boundary where Malan took a well-judged catch. Hildreth remained unbeaten on 26, from only 13 balls.
James Hildreth, Somerset's captain in the absence of the injured Marcus Trescothick, said: "We weren't too disappointed at the half-way stage, on what was a slowish pitch. But although it was a competitive total we didn't bowl as well as we have done recently, and the second half of the game certainly didn't go as planned."