MATCH REPORT: Middlesex Edge Thriller in Mill Hill-er

Middlesex ran out winners by a single run against Berkshire at Mill Hill School, but there was controversy aplenty which left Berkshire ruing not one but two unfortunate umpiring decisions – Fi Morris given out LBW to a ball that appeared to hit her very high on her pads; and then on what turned out to be the final ball of the day, a catch off a high full-toss from Middlesex quick Naomi Dattani, which arguably should have been called a No Ball.

At the start of the day, Dattani had won the toss and opted to bat first on a pitch which was expected to get harder to score on as the day progressed. In fact, it proved hard to score on from the first, as Middlesex made a plodding start, looking to see off openers Lauren Bell and Catherine Guppy. That they did, and it was the introduction of off-spinner Emma Walker in the 9th over which brought the breakthrough, trapping Dattani LBW.

Walker’s first spell also saw the fall of Tash Miles and Fran Wilson, both nicely taken C&Bs, before a middle-order recovery led by (who else?) Beth Morgan took Middlesex past the hundred mark to 116-4.

The return of Walker for a second spell brought the breakthrough once more, as the 18-year-old had Holly Huddleston caught by Millie Allerton, followed by Kathy Morley LBW, to bring up her maiden 5-fer in only her third ever match at this level. Meanwhile at the other end, Lauren Bell began a new over with 2 consecutive wides, but a quiet word from veteran Kiwi Rachel Priest obviously had the desired effect, as Bell sent down two rockets to trap Beth Morgan LBW for 37, and then Izzy Westbury, utterly flummoxed for pace, LBW for 1; with Middlesex finally closing at 152-8 from their 50 overs.

Berkshire’s reply got off to a lopsided start, as Priest hit out, whilst Annabel Flack played the blocking game at the other end – by the time Priest was out for a rollicking 47 off 37 balls, pulling Dattani to Cath Dalton at mid off, Flack was still only on 4! Flack made another 5, off 47 balls, before she became the second of Westbury’s 4 victims.

Victory appeared to be heading Middlesex’s way as they eyed up Berkshire’s long tail, but a stubborn stand between Bell (26) and Allerton (only 5, but lasting 31 balls in the process) looked to spoil the party, before Dattani took the decision to bring back Holly Huddleston early to try to finish things off. The “Hudd Missile” repaid the faith, bowling both Allerton and Bell – the latter perhaps slightly unfortunately off her pads – and then getting a bit of luck from the umpire to add Morris LBW.

But the end of Huddleston’s spell still left Middlesex with two wickets to find, and the target edged closer and closer as Ashleigh Muttitt dibbed and dabbed Berkshire to within one run of the Middlesex total, before the agonising finale ensued.

Afterwards, Middlesex captain Dattani admitted it was a close-run thing:

“We seem to put ourselves into positions like that: we were in control – we had them 7 wickets down – and we thought the 3 wickets should come relatively easy, but they did very well to dig in there at the end – they put up a good fight – it was a good competition.”

And on the final controversy?

“If it was a no ball, it’s the umpire’s call at the end of the day… It was a bad ball, but a wicket is a wicket.”

The result means that Middlesex can breathe a little easier in the Women’s County Championship, with a win under their belts at last; but leaves Berskhire bogged down in the “relegation zone” alongside Sussex, both with no wins from the first 3 rounds.