Malan slays semi-finalists Sussex
Sussex secured a semi-finals place in the Clydesdale Bank 40 despite losing their final Group A game to Middlesex at Lord’s.
Eight successive wins earlier in the competition had all but guaranteed their last-four place, but this seven-wicket defeat was their third in a row and they will need to rediscover their early-season form in Sunday’s semi-final against Surrey.
Middlesex’s inferior run-rate meant they were always destined to miss out but they will have been pleased to finish a much-improved one-day season with an impressive victory built on an opening stand of 153 in 26 overs between Dawid Malan and Sam Robson.
The left- and right-handed combination dominated both Sussex’s seam and spin bowlers on a slow pitch as they looked to overhaul a score of 239 for five.
Left-hander Malan passed 500 limited-overs runs for the season in his run-a-ball 84, which included 10 fours and a six over extra-cover off Monty Panesar.
Robson was no less impressive in what was only his sixth limited-overs game and just his second of the season. He found the gaps regularly to score 65, his maiden one-day half-century, from 71 balls with five fours.
Malan was caught behind trying to cut Wayne Parnell in the 26th over and Robson lost his off stump to Michael Yardy’s arm ball in the next over, but Paul Stirling and Chris Rogers ensured their side suffered no further alarms with some impressive hitting in a stand of 72 in 9.3 overs.
Irishman Stirling made an unbeaten 46 from 29 balls, which included three sixes.
Earlier, Chris Nash and Ed Joyce gave Sussex a solid platform by putting on 90 for the first wicket in 15 overs after Yardy won the toss.
Nash made 57 and was particularly savage on seamer Robbie Williams, who was playing only his second one-day game, pulling him for six and hitting nine other fours in his 57 off 46 balls before he was bowled around his legs by Jamie Dalrymple.
He was not the only Sussex batsman guilty of wasting a good start. Joyce passed 50 in the competition for the fourth time this season before picking out long-off, and Lou Vincent was also caught in the deep after making 42.
Yardy and Joe Gatting gave the innings some impetus at the end by adding 54 in 41 balls for the fifth wicket, but, with a temptingly short Tavern-side boundary, Sussex’s total looked no more than competitive.
A target of 57 from the last 10 overs was never going to extend Middlesex, who won with 17 balls to spare as Stirling finished unbeaten on 46 from 29 balls, including three sixes.