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Sharks tear through Panthers

Sussex Sharks’ hopes of squeezing into the knockout stages of the NatWest T20 Blast were boosted by a commanding six-wicket win over Middlesex Panthers at the County Ground.

The visitors were all out for just 107 off the penultimate ball of their innings and opener Chris Nash led the Sharks home with an unbeaten 74, hitting James Harris for a straight six to seal victory off the first ball of the 17th over.

After losing five successive games, Sussex have now won their last two and, in the ultra-competitive South Group, will still fancy their chances of a top-four finish.

With just one win so far, the Panthers are out of contention and there were few highlights for them in this performance, apart from Ryan Higgins' 31.

They lost two wickets in the powerplay with Joe Denly bowled by Lewis Hatchett in the second over via an inside edge before Eoin Morgan fell in the next to James Anyon, who got a ball to rise sharply and the Middlesex captain could only touch it to wicketkeeper Ben Brown.

Both Higgins and Dawid Malan were dropped as they put on 25 for the third wicket before leg-spinner Will Beer made an immediate impression when he got his first ball to turn out of the rough and knock back Malan's leg stump.

From then, Middlesex lost wickets regularly. The dangerous Dan Christian was leg before to Steffan Piolet's second ball and Beer finished with 3-22 after Neil Dexter drove to extra-cover and John Simpson was bowled through the gate.

Higgins and Ollie Rayner added 27 for the seventh wicket before Higgins was lbw to a ball from Anyon that kept horribly low.

Rayner was held on the deep midwicket boundary off Yasir Arafat and Hatchett removed Harris and Harry Podmore in the final over to complete career-best figures 3-23.

Sussex lost talisman Luke Wright in the third over of their reply, leg before to Harris on the walk and, after a mix-up with Nash, Harry Finch was run out by Higgins' direct-hit from the covers in the fifth.

Like their visitors, Sussex were 40 for two at the end of the powerplay but Nash was in no mood to give it away and he eased to his first half-century of the season.

A stand of 44 in eight overs with Rory Hamilton-Brown took the game away from Middlesex and Nash finished with 74 from 53 balls with three sixes and five fours.

The opener was understandably delighted with his team's performance, saying: "I'm chuffed with that. I thought we bowled and fielded really well again and I was always confident we could chase that target.

"It was difficult to know what sort of total you could get but to restrict them to 107 was a great effort and on a personal note it was nice to bat through the innings and get a score.

"We've got a bit of momentum now and we still feel we can reach the quarter-finals."

Middlesex coach Richard Scott blamed his senior batsmen for posting an under-par total.

"I was quite happy with our powerplay of 40 for two but then we made the cardinal error of losing four wickets in five overs and that left us up against it," he said.

"Ryan Higgins played well for his 31 but it is tough to rebuild from that position and some of our senior guys went missing."

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