England beat Middlesex in Stanford opener

England avoided embarrassment in Antigua by narrowly beating Middlesex in their first Twenty20 match.

Matthew Prior surrenders his innings in what turned out to be difficult batting conditions in Antigua.
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ANTIGUA // Andrew Flintoff bowled a steady last over to help England defeat Middlesex by 12 runs in the second match of the Stanford Twenty20 Super Series. With 18 runs needed off the last over, Flintoff (1-23) conceded just five runs as the Middlesex top-scorer Dawid Malan, who made an unbeaten 41 from 33 balls, was unable to hit any boundaries. Flintoff helped England defend their paltry 121 for four off 20 overs, restricting Middlesex who reached 109-4 in reply.

Earlier, Owais Shah top-scored with 39 as the England batsmen also struggled against the Middlesex spin and pace attack. Batsmen on both sides found it difficult to get the ball off the square while fielders appeared to have difficulty in picking up the ball in the lights as, just like the previous game, several catches were dropped. A partnership of 62 between Malan, who hoisted the England skipper Kevin Pietersen for a straight six, and Ed Joyce, who also hammered Pietersen for a six over long-off in his patient 33, attempted to spur Middlesex to an upset win. It seemed likely when Malan struck two fours off the seamer James Anderson in the penultimate over but Flintoff's splendid last over cramped his attempts for big hits.

The left-arm seamer Ryan Sidebottom made the initial breakthrough by bowling his England colleague Andrew Strauss for eight in the fourth over and when Neil Carter was caught in the deep off Flintoff, Middlesex were 36 for two off eight overs. Eight runs later, Eoin Morgan was dismissed for four, making the English County Twenty20 champions' task even more difficult. Shah's chancy knock, 29 by Mathew Prior and Ian Bell's 23 were main scorers in England's disappointing total.

The left-arm spinner Murali Kartik, who outfoxed Pietersen when he had him stumped for five, captured 2-27. Shah, who survived two dropped catches, and Flintoff, who watched his England Test teammate Andrew Strauss drop a routine chance at mid-on, hammered sixes off Tim Murtagh in the latter stages of the innings in an attempt to get on top of the bowling. But Flintoff was caught on the long-off boundary off the left-arm seamer Neil Carter to end a stand of 28 for the fourth wicket in the 19th over.

Middlesex will meet the Stanford Twenty20 Caribbean winners Trinidad & Tobago, who were beaten by 22 runs on Saturday by the Stanford Super Stars, in the Champions Cup match worth US$400,000 (Dhs 1.5 million). England play Trinidad on Tuesday and will then meet the Super Stars next Saturday for the first Stanford US$20 million Twenty20 match. *AP