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John Simpson inspires Middlesex as they maintain quarter-final hopes

Middlesex 142 for 6 (Eskinazi 33, Crane 2-20) beat Hampshire 123 (Alsop 43, Finn 3-27) by 19 runs

John Simpson proved Middlesex’s hero as they beat Hampshire by 19 runs to revive their Vitality Blast hopes. The Seaxes’ keeper hit 30 quick runs from 19 balls to carry the hosts to 142 for 6, before effecting three catches, a stumping and a run-out as Hampshire collapsed to 123 all out in reply.

Tom Helm and Middlesex skipper Steven Finn both came close to hat-tricks as Hampshire, not for the first time in the campaign, wilted chasing a small target, despite 43 from Tom Alsop.

Victory lifts Middlesex to six points, though they stay fourth in the South Group, while defeat leaves Hampshire’s hopes of qualifying for the knockout stages hanging by a thread.

Finn opted to bat after winning the toss and his faith was rewarded early on as Stevie Eskinazi and Max Holden started brightly. Eskinazi, Middlesex’s leading run scorer in the competition this season, twice struck Shaheen Shah Afridi into the Mound stand and the Pakistan paceman also yielded five wides from a wild delivery fired down the leg-side.

However, once Holden skied a catch to backward point off the impressive Ian Holland in the fourth over, the early momentum was lost. Holland and Mason Crane strangled the hosts to such a degree, they managed just one boundary in the next 49 balls, a period in which Eskinazi was caught and bowled by Crane from a ball which stopped in the pitch.

Jack Davies ended that barren sequence, before surviving what seemed a certain run out when Crane dropped the return from the outfield with the Middlesex youngster stranded. But Dan Lincoln’s promotion to No. 3 failed to produce fruit and only an enormous six from Simpson in the last over which sailed beyond the Nursery End sightscreen boosted the hosts.

Hampshire have had their batting woes in the competition this season and began badly when James Vince edged Helm into the gloves of Simpson in the third over. And Helm, who was in England’s ODI bubble at the start of the season, snared Sam Northeast with his next ball, another thin nick into the gloves of Simpson.

Joe Weatherley survived the hat-trick and a shout for a stumping off a Murtagh wide at the start of the next over, only to overbalance to another leg-side wide the very next ball, Simpson whipping off the bails in lightning fashion.

At 12 for 3 the visitors were struggling, but helped by five penalty runs, when the ball hits Simpson’s glove when it was on the ground, Tom Alsop and James Fuller rebuilt. Alsop raised the 50 by pulling a Nathan Sowter long hop to the midwicket fence and the 50-partnership came off 37 balls as runs flowed freely.

The stand raised 71 before Fuller hoisted Murtagh, playing only his second T20 since 2013, into the hands of Martin Andersson at long-on to depart for 34 at the end of the 13th over.

Alsop continued to be aggressive, pulling Miguel Cummins for six, but a stunning caught and bowled by Sowter sent him packing with 51 still needed.

Simpson’s fourth dismissal came when Holland gloved one from Finn and 30 were needed from the last three overs. Finn then had Lewis McManus and Chris Wood caught in the deep from successive balls and Crane was run out by fancy footwork from Simpson as Hampshire crumbled. Victory was sealed when Afridi skied Cummins into Finn’s hands with seven balls left.

Source Cricket news from ESPN Cricinfo.com

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