A brilliant all-round performance by Paul Weekes and a coruscating innings by Owais Shah kept alive Middlesex's promotion hopes and simultaneously thwarted their rivals Hampshire in the chase for a place in the National League First Division yesterday.
A pulsating climax to a high-scoring match was studded with drama and drops as Middlesex squeezed home with one ball to spare. Shah, who made 49 off 49 balls, was dropped off the last ball of the penultimate over when 10 runs were still required - the batsmen scampered a single.
He then smashed the first ball of the last over, bowled by Dimitri Mascarenhas, over extra cover for six, only to be superbly caught at midwicket by Shaun Udal next ball. Ed Joyce was then put down off the third ball of the over, and again the batsmen stole a single and it was effectively over.
It had all been made possible by Weekes, who had claimed a season's best with his bowling before going on to score his first century of the season - a double which quite eclipsed the earlier hundred by Hampshire's Simon Katich.
The Middlesex opener paced his innings perfectly. He was at the crease from the start, sharing in an opening stand of 77 with Andrew Strauss, his captain, before adding 80 with Chad Keegan for the second wicket.
With Shah came a further 61 runs before Weekes holed out to Mascarenhas at long-on after 126 balls. It was then up to Joyce and the rest to keep their heads and ensure the scoreboard ticked over.
Katich had earlier marked his first appearance at Lord's in some style, scoring his second century in the competition this season. The left-hander from Western Australia, who was a Durham player in 2000 when he scored 70 not out against Middlesex, but at Southgate, scored at close to a run-a-ball in front of a goodly crowd.
He shared in a crucial opening stand of 144 with a belligerent Nic Pothas, who hammered 78 off 77 balls. That was Hampshire's third century stand for the first wicket this season, and the highest, with Katich having had a hand in two of them.
Once these two had fallen the momentum rather went out of their innings, though. Katich was one of three victims to Weekes' off-spin in a seven-ball spell which reduced Hampshire's progress to rather more mundane levels. Weekes finished with a season's best 4 for 45, then went out and did his stuff with the bat.
Defeat does not mean the end of Hampshire's First Division pretensions. Victory over Derbyshire next Sunday would ensure that Shane Warne will be guaranteed First Division cricket on his return next season.
* Sussex gained a measure of revenge over Lancashire yesterday with a crushing victory in the National League just 24 hours after suffering an innings defeat in the County Championship at Old Trafford which forced any title celebrations to be put on hold.Yesterday's superb performance by Sussex, however, was a case of turning the tables as the loss puts Lancashire's National League Second Division title hopes in doubt. Sussex, third from bottom of the table, demolished the home side for 125 in 41 overs before rushing to a nine-wickets triumph. The openers Richard Montgomerie and Murray Goodwin hammered an opening stand of 121 off 100 balls and Sussex clinched it in the 19th over.