Openers smoothly set up Middlesex win
Dawid Malan and Chris Rogers struck half-centuries as Middlesex moved second in Clydesdale Bank 40 Group A with a comprehensive nine-wicket victory over lowly Essex at Chelmsford.
The Panthers moved a point behind the Netherlands, although Gloucestershire and Lancashire will overtake both if they win their games in hand.
In a match reduced to 25 overs per side due to rain, the Eagles managed just 146 for seven as Toby Roland-Jones claimed 3-25.
Middlesex’s triumph was then comfortably sealed with 15 balls to spare after opening pair Malan and Rogers put on 136 with consummate ease.
The latter eventually fell for 64, but it mattered little as Malan finished unbeaten on 76.
Apart from Mark Pettini, the Essex top-order struggled to make an impact in the face of tight bowling backed up by fine work in the field.
It was an example of the latter that brought Pettini’s innings to an end on 44 as Rogers threw down the stumps from deep midwicket.
Yet Pettini, leading the side due to James Foster being excused as his wife is soon to give birth, had sparked a late rally that saw Adam Wheater and and Jaik Mickleburgh also add 33 and 22 not out respectively.
They put together 53 in five overs; the former smashed three sixes during his 19-ball stay before he was caught in the deep while his partner was no less adventurous.
In reply, Rogers and Malan initially batted cautiously, epitomised by just 16 runs coming from the first five overs, before upping the tempo when well set.
The only blemish came when Rogers offered a chance to a leaping Tom Westley at slip when he had made 16, but the Australian profited from his escape to reach a half-century from 48 balls.
He had moved to 64 with the aid of two sixes and six fours, only to hole out to David Masters off Tymal Mills having taken his side to within 11 runs of their target.
Fittingly, however, it was Malan who completed victory with two boundaries in an over from left-arm paceman Mills.