Middlesex win by 7 wickets
An innings of 93 not out played in two distinct and separate parts by Mike Gatting took Middlesex to a comfortable victory over Essex - their second victory in the qualifying rounds of this year's Benson and Hedges Cup.
After batting anxiously through the 25 overs before tea for 24 runs, Gatting began to locate the middle of his bat with a satisfying ease after the interval, and Middlesex won with 4.5 overs to spare. Gatting put on an unbroken 167 with Paul Weekes in 30 overs for the fourth wicket.
In spite of some good stroke-play by Paul Prichard, who seems to be thriving on the responsibility of the Essex captaincy, and Nasser Hussain, the possessor of an unusual talent which may remain irritatingly unfulfilled, Essex never looked like reaching a large enough total after being put in to bat.
The Middlesex bowling, with Angus Fraser giving them the ideal start when his first seven overs cost only 12 runs, gave little away. Dion Nash was the most expensive of the four seamers, costing 50 runs from his 10 overs.
The key bowling, as will often be the case with Middlesex this year, came from the two off-spinners, John Emburey and Weekes. They bowled 22 overs between them for 79 runs, and showed that spin can play as important a role as the seam in one-day cricket. The Essex innings ended with an unlikely flourish when Darren Robinson hit 21 off Fraser's last over, but by then it was too late for Essex.
Middlesex began their innings badly. Jason Pooley may have been a trifle unlucky to have been lbw coming forward and playing no stroke at Ronnie Irani, but in the next over, Mark Ramprakash can have had no complaints when he departed in similar fashion, half-forward to Mark Ilott. There were a few firm strokes from John Carr before he was lbw trying to play his former Middlesex colleague, Neil Williams, to midwicket.
Gatting, meanwhile, had not been looking at ease, showing sluggish footwork and poor timing, and he might have been caught at backward point when on seven. For 24 overs and five balls, his bat made all manner of strange noises before he pulled the last ball before tea to midwicket for four.
This transformed him, and after the interval he square-cut, drove and pulled. Weekes made an excellent partner, and played with style and composure to reach his first 50 in the competition and the pair saw Middlesex home. Weekes's display won him the gold award.