A CENTURY from Dawid Malan acted as the catalyst for a Middlesex victory by 54 runs under the Duckworth/Lewis method in their Clydesdale Bank 40 Group A encounter against Essex at Lord’s.
But there was no joy with the bat for Ravi Bopara who became one of three victims for 20-year-old Gurjit Sandhu, who was making his debut in the competition.
England all-rounder Bopara was given the opportunity by the England and Wales Cricket Board to play in this match in the hope of rediscovering his form after a recent period of absence from the game for personal reasons, but he had scored only two when he edged a lifting delivery from the young pace bowler behind.
In contrast, the 24-year-old Malan played splendidly, deploying controlled and clean hitting aggression in his innings of 134 from 108 deliveries out of a total of 288 all out after he had lost fellow opener Joe Denly without a run on the board.
Malan, though, was soon issuing notice of intent striking four successive deliveries from paceman Maurice Chambers to the boundary and he found an admirable ally in Gareth Berg who came to the crease with the home side 90 for three.
The pair added 132 in 20 overs before Berg edged a ball from Bopara, having struck 61 from 58 balls, to give wicket-keeper James Foster his third catch of the innings, but Malan continued to dictate.
His century arrived from 89 balls with one six and 10 fours and by the time he was caught by Chambers at deep long-on, he had added another two sixes and two fours.
Some shoddy work in the field by the visitors and the concession of six penalty runs for slow-over-rate left them with a challenging target for victory.
Their hopes were boosted by a fourth-wicket partnership of 102 in 16 overs involving Tom Westley and Owais Shah who both completed half-centuries.
Westley hit 68, his third 50 in his last five CB40 innings, while Shah returned to his former stomping ground with 53 but both were dismissed in successive Paul Stirling overs.
With 10 overs remaining, 120 further runs were required with five wickets intact but the task proved well beyond the visitors as the run-rate steadily increased while they also had to contend with fading light.
And it was the gloom that brought about a premature end with 29 balls remaining when umpires Rob Bailey and Steve Garratt called off proceedings with Essex 198 for seven and leaving the impressive Sandhu as the most successful Middlesex bowler with figures of three for 28 from six overs.