Cricket: Middlesex succumb to Lancashire's Mahmood
PUBLISHED: 09:40 11 May 2019 | UPDATED: 09:40 11 May 2019
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Saqib Mahmood continued his 2019 love affair with the Royal London One-Day Cup as Lancashire beat Middlesex in a thrilling Royal London Play-off encounter at Lord's.
The Red-Rose quick bowler took his tally for the competition to 25 courtesy of a burst of 3-15 with the new ball, before returning to snare George Scott LBW en route to 4-38 as the visitors won by 20 runs - but that doesn't tell the whole story.
In tandem with England paceman Jimmy Anderson (1-35), Birmingham-born Mahmood left Stuart Law's side 24-5 - with their hopes of chasing down a target of 305 seemingly in tatters.
In a week of sporting comebacks, we might have known the cricket gods would not let the game go quietly and it was James Harris (117) who led a thrilling counter-offensive, obliterating his previous List-A best of 32 in the process.
John Simpson provided great support with 74, the pair sharing a sixth-wicket stand of 197, a record for Middlesex in the format.
However, Harris was stumped off Matthew Parkinson and Simpson run out in the same over and despite late blows from Scott and Toby Roland-Jones (both 26), the host's 11th hour bid for victory came up short.
It means Lancashire advance to play South Group winners Hampshire on Sunday, while a Middlesex side missing the quintet of Dawid Malan, Paul Stirling, England white-ball skipper Eoin Morgan, Tim Murtagh and Steven Finn, will draw consolation from reaching the knockout stages for the first time.
Given the inclement weather of the previous few days, it was no surprise Middlesex skipper Stevie Eskinazi opted to field on winning the toss and the hosts struck early thanks to a stunning piece of fielding.
Liam Livingstone, back from IPL duties with Rajasthan Royals, must have thought he'd found the boundary when pulling a short one from Tom Helm in the second over, only for George Scott to hurtle from deep-square to deep mid-wicket before hurling himself full length and clinging on.
And they were close to a second reward when Croft survived a huge LBW shout off the luckless Roland-Jones.
Scare survived, Croft settled down to play foil for the excellent Jennings who, unlike on occasions for England persistently got a good stride in as he struck eight boundaries, moving to 50 in 62 balls.
Croft took seven balls more to raise his half-century which included pulling Roland-Jones into the Edrich stand for the game's first maximum.
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The pair went on to add 159 - a record for any wicket against Middlesex in List-A cricket.
Nathan Sowter made the breakthrough, bowling Croft as he attempted an ugly slog over cow corner, but that success apart the competition's leading wicket-taker in the group stages was strangely subdued.
Jennings moved imperiously towards a century before taking a stride down the pitch to Scott and yorking himself four runs shy of the landmark.
But skipper Dane Vilas' unbeaten 70, including a huge straight six off Roland-Jones saw Lancashire beyond 300, a total which would have been far greater but for the excellent death-bowling of Helm (2-51) and superb fielding, led by Scott and Nick Gubbins.
Middlesex suffered a traumatic start in reply as Max Holden, hero of Tuesday's final group game win over Kent at Canterbury, set off for a run which was never there and was run out by Anderson's direct hit.
That brought in Gubbins, a man with four half-centuries in the competition this year, but Anderson, despatched him first ball, trapping the left-hander LBW.
Mahmood then took centre-stage, removing Sam Robson with a ball which lifted and took the edge through to Vilas
His next over saw Eskinazi top-edge to square leg and any hopes of an unlikely fightback ended when five balls later New Zealander Ross Taylor nicked another quick delivery to Jennings at slip.
Harris and Simpson's heroics meant for a while the impossible became at the very least improbable, if not plausible, but it wasn't to be.
Harris said: "It was a really good game of cricket. They were 200-2 with about 15 overs to go, so to keep them to 300 was a really good effort.
"It was an outstanding piece of bowling from Mahmood. You could argue Jimmy (Anderson) got out-bowled which doesn't happen an awful lot. So kudos to them, they made it hard for us up top and took some wickets.
"John and I were just trying to keep us in the game for as long as we could and it almost felt like we were in charge for periods of it, so to lose by 20 hurts a lot really.
"I was out there sooner than I thought I would be. It's been a little bit of a plan that I would come up the order if we were in trouble to try and back up Simmo, George and Toby towards the back end where we can cause some chaos and it nearly worked perfectly today.
"The century has been something on my bucket list for a while. It's just a shame we couldn't get over the line."