Leicestershire 173 for 5 (Handscomb 54*, Bamber 3-27) beat Middlesex 191 (Robson 58, Scriven 3-33, Salisbury 3-41) by 23 runs via DLS
Leicestershire Foxes clinched their place in the knock-out stages of the Metro Bank One-Day Cup with a 23-run victory over Middlesex in a rain-affected contest at the Uptonsteel County Ground.
In a day-night match reduced to 47 overs per side after the start was delayed, further rain caused the contest to be abandoned after 40 overs of Leicestershire’s innings, at which point the Foxes were 173 for 5 chasing 192 for victory, 23 runs ahead of the Duckworth Lewis Stern calculation for where they needed to be at that point.
The result guarantees Leicestershire can finish no lower than second in Group A, which would bring a home quarter-final. Only Hampshire, who have two matches left to the Foxes’ one, can deny them top spot, which would take them straight into a home semi-final.
Ethan Bamber was outstanding with the ball for Middlesex, bowling his full 10 overs in one spell at the start of Leicestershire’s innings for figures of 3 for 27, but even without Colin Ackermann, recruited by Southern Brave for the remainder of The Hundred, Leicestershire have a deep batting line-up that always made them favourites.
The Middlesex innings had started promisingly. After a sublimely-timed chip over the leg side had brought Mark Stoneman a six off the first ball of the match, four boundaries by Joe Cracknell, all attractively executed bar a streaky inside edge, saw them set off at six an over but Leicestershire responded well.
Wiaan Mulder straightened one enough to beat Cracknell’s defence before Salisbury struck in each of his first two overs, uprooting Stonemen’s middle stump before Jack Davies, driving, nicked behind. Middlesex, just out of powerplay one, were 53 for 3.
They lost a fourth wicket when Ryan Higgins, driving loosely at a widish ball from Josh Hull, was caught at cover and from 70 for 4, it was vital that Robson and Simpson brought their experience to bear if Middlesex were to give their bowlers a defendable total.
Yet after advancing the total to 136 without further loss, Robson anchoring reliably, Simpson putting away some lovely straight drives, the latter looked to be trapped in a moment of indecision as he was bowled by Scriven and a collapse followed,
Scriven had Martin Andersson caught behind off a somewhat airy drive, Robson followed a ball angled across him by the returning Hull that found a faint edge before Salisbury, also starting a new spell, bowled Josh De Caires with a beauty. Luke Hollman, forced to play at one that came back, gave Handscomb a fourth catch against the team he used to captain and Mulder a second wicket, before Scriven ended Ethan Bamber’s late cameo with his third.
The Foxes raced to 68 for 1 in powerplay one, 39 of them to Patel, who looked in fine touch from the outset, exposing the inexperience of 21-year-old Ishaan Kaushal with three fours in the youngster’s opening over, which also yielded five wides, before handing some early punishment to Ryan Higgins with a pick-up for six and a cover driven four.
The only casualty was Sol Budinger, fresh from his maiden century earlier in the week, who lofted one soaring six off Higgins but was beaten and trapped in front by Bamber, whose five powerplay overs cost only 15 runs.
Despite losing skipper Lewis Hill cheaply, bowled by one that cut back from Bamber, a couple of early boundaries for Handscomb kept Leicestershire ahead of the game but their progress was checked with two wickets in the space of 19 balls.
Andersson replaced Higgins and promptly removed Patel, disappointingly out to a somewhat tame return catch. Bamber continued and added a third wicket to a superb spell with the dismissal of Mulder for three thanks to a brilliant one-handed catch by Robson at slip.
With 99 needed from 30 overs and four of their top five gone, Leicestershire were under pressure for the first time in the match. Louis Kimber’s 22 off 21 balls brought the target down to 70 off 142 balls before he fell caught and bowled by leg-spinner Luke Hollman off a leading edge.
It left Handscomb carrying a weight of responsibility, alongside a new partner in Sam Evans making his first competitive appearance of the season at first-team level in place of Ackermann.
Yet with only three runs per over required, the Australian knew the sixth-wicket pair could be risk-averse and still finish the job.
A shower sent the players off the field with 36 needed off 11.1 overs but the stoppage was brief enough for no more overs to be lost and Handscomb soon completed a 69-ball half-century with a nicely-timed cut for four off Andersson before the rain returned with seven overs still to go.