A tense final over saw Middlesex take the spoils in a two-run victory over the second-placed Kent Spitfires at Canterbury.
Set to chase 185 at an asking rate of 9.25 an over, Kent succumbed to defeat after failing to score nine runs needed for victory off Tom Helm’s nerve-tingling last over.
Jordan Cox ended a near heroic run chase unbeaten on 39, while skipper Daniel Bell-Drummond went for a season’s best 89 in trying to slog Helm’s first delivery of the final over
The hosts had made a bad start in losing England star Zak Crawley to only the fourth ball. Aiming a lofted straight drive against Helm, Crawley’s bottom hand took over and tugged a simple catch to mid-on.
Joe Denly soon followed, squared up by a Tim Murtagh cutter, the right-hander was caught at cover off a leading edge as Spitfires stumbled to 45 for two in the powerplay.
Heino Kuhn followed, down the pitch to Miguel Cummins, he spliced an attempted back-foot force low to Stevie Eskinazi at cover.
Alex Blake gloved an attempted leg-side pull to the keeper against Steven Finn then Jack Leaning’s disappointing tournament continued when he picked out deep square leg to gift Murtagh a second scalp.
Kent’s leading T20 run-scorer Daniel Bell-Drummond posted his third 50 of the qualifiers from 37 balls, reaching the milestone with a six over cover against Luke Hollman.
With 51 required off the last four overs, Bell-Drummond moved into overdrive with a flailed six over long off against Nathan Sowter, a lofted paddle to third man against Helm, who was dispatched over the ropes at mid-wicket for another maximum.
Needing 25 off 12 balls, Bell-Drummond and Jordan Cox nurdled fours to third man against Cummins who was then cracked for a massive six over long on by Cox
Grant Stewart was run out attempting two off the penultimate ball of the game from Helm and, with Cox off strike, Matt Milnes heaved at the last ball only to scramble a single and spark Middlesex victory celebrations.
Bowling first after winning the toss, Kent leaked late runs to a fifth-wicket partnership worth 70 in seven overs between John Simpson and Luke Hollman that took Middlesex to a respectable 184 for six.
The Spitfires restricted the visitors to four runs from their opening two overs, pressure that paid dividends when Max Holden, in looking to make room against Fred Klassen’s first ball of the match, skied his miscued drive to mid-off.
Joe Denly’s second over went for 18 as Cracknell, the 20-year-old right-hander from Enfield continued to tee-off and take his side to 65 for one after the powerplay.
Playing only his third T20 innings, Cracknell raced to a maiden short-form 50 from 21 balls with nine fours and a six, but his luck ran out next ball when he departed lbw playing across a full one from Grant Stewart.
Imran Qayyum struck in his first over of left-arm spin, drawing Martin Andersson down the pitch with a flighted delivery that beat the outside edge to have the right-hander stumped.
Kent used three spinners in a bid to stem the run-rate, but John Simpson upped the tempo with a straight six and swept four against Joe Denly, his old Middlesex team-mate, as the 100 came up after 11 overs.
Eskinazi’s steady 22-ball stay for 26 ended in comical fashion and a run out. After being sent back wanting a single to backward point, the visiting skipper slid over and was on his backside watching as Cox gathered the throw to whip off the bails.
Simpson, dropped off a sharp chance at wide mid-off when on 35, was run out in the final over for 46, while Hollman gave it the long handle to be run out off the final ball, for a quickfire 46 off 26 balls.
Qayyum, the pick of Kent’s attack, completed four tidy overs to finish with for one for 21.
Credit: Mark Pennell, ECB Reporters’ Network