Panthers prevail to stay in touch
Middlesex Panthers revived their hopes of reaching the knockout stages of the Friends Provident t20 after handing South Group leaders Sussex Sharks their third home defeat of the campaign.
The 2008 Twenty20 champions won by five wickets with four balls to spare chasing a target of 141 and are now just two points behind second-placed Hampshire Royals in a congested South Group where two points separate five teams.
Reigning champions Sussex still have a six-point lead at the top but they have now lost three of their last four games and are badly missing England pair Luke Wright and Mike Yardy.
Sussex skipper Murray Goodwin won the toss but his side never recovered from a terrible start which saw Panthers seamer Tim Murtagh rip out the cream of their batting with three wickets in an over.
Ed Joyce made his fourth single-figure score in six t20 innings when he drove the first ball of the third over to mid-off.
Sussex suffered an even bigger blow next ball when Matt Prior, who went into the game as the competition’s leading scorer, miscued a slower ball to mid-off.
Murtagh was celebrating again with the final delivery of the over when Dwayne Smith, who had hit two of his first three balls for four, drilled the fourth to short midwicket.
Sharks wickets fell regularly after that with only Joe Gatting of the top seven batsmen getting to double figures.
Middlesex’s seamers relished a slow, dry pitch with Tyron Henderson picking up two wickets and fellow South Africans Gareth Berg and skipper Neil Dexter one apiece as the hosts slumped to 76 for eight in the 14th over.
They were in danger of posting only their third total of less than 100 in Twenty20 history but Ollie Rayner and Will Beer pulled them around in a rousing stand of 45 in five overs.
Number 10 Beer contributed 22 from 17 balls including three boundaries while Rayner also made his competition best with 41 from 29 deliveries with three fours and the only sixes of the innings, struck down the ground off Tom Smith and then Pedro Collins.
Even last man James Kirtley chipped in with a career-best 11 not out as 21 runs were plundered from the last over by Collins to take Sussex to 140 for nine.
Murtagh, 3-24, and Henderson, 3-25, bowled superbly for the Panthers and openers David Warner and Scott Newman ensured their good work was not wasted by adding 63 in 8.5 overs to give their side a platform for victory.
There was a brief wobble when the openers fell in the space of three balls and again when two wickets fell for four runs in the 16th over.
However, Owais Shah - badly dropped at long-on by Smith on 28 - made 34 off 31 balls and although Chad Keegan had him caught in the penultimate over, he conceded 16 runs which left Dexter to hit the winning boundary in his 20 from just 10 balls.