Eoin Morgan tees off in record chase as Middlesex progress at Somerset’s expense

3:00 AM ETDavid HoppsGeneral editor, ESPNcricinfo CloseDavid Hopps joined ESPNcricinfo as UK editor early in 2012. For the previous 20 years he was a senior cricket writer for the Guardian and covered England extensively during that time in all Test-playing nations. He also covered four Olympic Games and has written several cricket books, including collections of cricket quotations. He has been an avid amateur cricketer since he was 12, and so knows the pain of repeated failure only too well. The pile of untouched novels he plans to read, but rarely gets around to, is now almost touching the ceiling. He divides his time between the ESPNcricinfo office in Hammersmith and his beloved Yorkshire.Follow on TwitterFacebookTwitterFacebook MessengerPinterestEmailprint

Middlesex 227 for 4 (Morgan 83*) beat Somerset 226 for 5 (Morgan 101*, Banton 62) by six wickets

It is turning into an extraordinary summer for Eoin Morgan. A World Cup-winning captain, he followed up at Taunton with the most extraordinary Blast innings of the season as Middlesex confounded expectations by pulling off a record T20 chase with breathtaking simplicity.

No county had ever hauled in a score as large as Somerset’s 226 for 5 but Middlesex did it with six wickets and three overs to spare with Morgan’s coup de grace a startling unbeaten 83 from 29 balls that was such a simple display of uninhibited hitting it almost defied description. Thirteen of the 29 balls he faced went to boundaries.

You’re a long time retired and even allowing for the natural adrenalin slump in the weeks after a World Cup triumph, the thought that Morgan might retire at 32 and not lead England in the World T20 in Australia in late 2020 is hard to countenance.

“Does an innings like that make playing on more appealing?” he was asked on Sky Sports. “It probably does,” he said, before adding: “It’s a big decision. I don’t want to let anybody down. I want to take time to make my decision.”

Somerset’s bowlers cracked under the pressure in a must-win match. As much as Morgan, and others, took advantage of Taunton’s short boundaries, and the flattest hybrid pitch yet seen in English cricket, Middlesex will rarely receive so many please-hit-me deliveries. The omission of Craig Overton, even allowing for his modest season, looked to be an error.

For Somerset’s captain Tom Abell, a maiden T20 century should have been cause for unbridled satisfaction. Instead, there was only heartache. The first thing you spot about Abell in Twenty20 cricket is the desire. He appears to crave victory because it is the right and proper thing to do.

A year ago, he struggled horribly, using up 18 balls for an unbeaten 21 as Somerset threw away a chance to chase 232 against Kent at Canterbury and so reach the last eight. This time, every shot he played had Middlesex’s international top five at the back of his mind, but once again Somerset fell short.

“At the halfway stage we were a little bit frustrated with the way we had bowled,” Middlesex’s captain Dawid Malan said. “But you only have to get the ball in the air to get six here and if you beat the field it is four.”

Malan contributed to an electrifying start. By the time Malan and Paul Striling fell in successive balls from Tim Groenewald, Middlesex were 67 for 2 after four overs.

Middlesex’s Powerplay score was their highest ever – 94 for 2 – before Mohammad Hafeez fell to a cute run out at the bowler’s end by Roelof van der Merwe, who fielded a return drive off his own bowling from AB de Villiers in conventional fashion and then rolled the ball through his legs to hit the stumps.

Max Waller appeared so overawed by the challenge of bowling legspin to de Villiers on this sort of surface that the South African greeted one mishit six against a long hop with a roll of the eyes. But when de Villiers refocused it was to find Waller pulling off a brilliant right-handed catch above his head at straight midwicket to dismiss him for 32.

With 87 needed off eight, Morgan’s eyes narrowed. He took a view on the left-arm seam of Tom Lammonby, taking 23 off the over, the second of three sixes somewhat fortunate as Babar Azam, who had just returned to the field, staggered back stiffly into the rope at long-on. By the end, Morgan had eight sixes, each one more predictable than the last.

There is much talk of Somerset’s bank of young talent, but Abell will have to supervise a difficult transition. Peter Trego has been released and, who knows James Hildreth may not have too many seasons left as far as Twenty20 is concerned, his latest struggle, 18 from 12 balls, having the careworn mood of a senior pro not quite sure of his touch.

Babar and Tom Banton have been the source of Somerset’s inspiration – the two leading scorers in the Blast. Babar departed first ball to Toby Roland-Jones but Banton, the darling of the TV cameras in limited-overs cricket all summer, upped the adoration level with 62 from 39 balls.

Banton was badly dropped on the shot that took him to his fourth half-century of the tournament, a top-edged pull against Steven Finn which Tom Helm made a mess off, his mouth open like a basking lizard: it was a stressful night all round but it was not the best way for him to regulate his body temperature.

It was upon Banton’s dismissal that Somerset’s innings found momentum as Abell and Ed Byrom put on 95 in 43 balls.

Poor Abell. He should have been run out on 4 when Nathan Sowter fumbled a throw from the cover boundary at the bowler’s end, but from that point played the field – in the nicest possible way. This time, his tricky ramp shot which has served him well throughout the tournament was rarely seen as he discovered a more powerful game. “Twenty20 hasn’t really been my thing,” he said.

It felt as if Abell’s century might not quite be achieved, but after the dismissal of Lewis Gregory for a first-ball duck (Gregory was not fit to bowl), he found himself on strike on 90 with four balls remaining.

Once again his game management came into play. Roland-Jones, Middlesex’s most economical bowler, was twice worked through square leg for boundaries and he scrubbed out a hard-run two for his hundred. Somerset had 133 from the last 10. It felt good, it felt last-eight, but it was nothing of the sort.