Cricket: More misery for Middlesex

Middlesex 226-8 Essex 227-9 Essex win by one wicket
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After comprehensively outplaying Middlesex for six hours, Essex almost lost their way in the final 60 minutes. When it came to the last over, Essex needed four to win with three wickets in hand - provided they did not lose more than one more wicket. If they did, they needed five because Middlesex had lost eight wickets.

Mark Ilott pushed Keith Dutch's first ball to short extra cover. Robert Rollins ran from the non-striker's end and Ian Blanchett threw to Dutch, who ran out Rollins.

Ilott and Ashley Cowan scampered desperate singles off the next three balls and, with two to go, one run was needed provided a wicket did not fall. But Cowan drove the next ball back to the bowler and, with Ilott already starting for a run, Dutch ran him out by a distance.

Two runs were needed from the last ball, therefore, and Cowan drove to long-off where poor Blanchett, playing his first game for Middlesex, did not pick it up cleanly and the second run was completed. So, Middlesex have followed their aberration in Ireland with another defeat, and are now unlikely to qualify for the quarter-finals for the second year in succession.

Graham Gooch and Paul Prichard had given Essex a good start, adding 43 in nine overs. Gooch, not at his commanding best, fell to a fine diving catch behind by Keith Brown, and Stuart Law then took command. The Australian made 53, but then the runs dried up as Paul Weekes bowled an excellent spell of off-breaks, conceding only 27 in his 10 overs. Paul Grayson was unable to get the ball away and Ronnie Irani was kept away from the strike. Wickets fell regularly until the last pair came together - ultimately successfully.

The only time Middlesex looked like scoring enough runs was when Mark Ramprakash and Weekes put on 69 for the third wicket. Ramprakash was easily recognisable as the batsman who had scored all those runs two years ago, which was the only piece of good news for Middlesex.