SAM COOK’S stunning triple-wicket maiden helped keep Essex in the hunt for a Vitality Blast quarter-final berth as they beat Middlesex by 21 runs at Lord’s.

Seamer Cook ripped the heart out of Middlesex’s top order with the wickets of Max Holden, Joe Cracknell and wicketkeeper John Simpson en route to figures of three for 23.

That left the hosts on nine for three, needing 162 for victory, and although captain Steve Eskinazi (43) and Jack Davies (41) mounted a recovery with a fourth-wicket stand worth 86, the hosts were limited to 140 for eight.

Earlier, Dan Lawrence (51) and Tom Westley (50) set a new Essex record for the fifth wicket against Middlesex with their stand of 84, eclipsing that of 63 by Paul Grayson and Andy Flower back in 2003, as the visitors reached 161 for six despite an impressive return of three for 16 from Chris Green.

Toby Greatwood on his Lord’s debut made an early breakthrough for Middlesex when Feroze Khushi nicked him to Simpson and, after threatening to cut loose, Adam Rossington was pinned in front by Jason Behrendorff (one for 17).

The in-form Michael Pepper flowered briefly for 26, including hoisting Thilan Walallawita’s first ball into the Mound Stand, but he fell trying to repeat the shot and when Paul Walter also holed out in the deep off the impressive Green Essex were 67 for four.

Lawrence and Westley rebuilt, the former taking heavy toll of the wayward Martin Andersson before lofting Walallawita for six as he reached 50 in 32 balls.

Westley’s 50 was scratchier and saw him given three lives. Simpson failed to stump the Eagles’ skipper on 22, while Greatwood grassed a chance on 33, both off the luckless Luke Hollman, and Holden shelled a third opportunity when Westley had 48.

Fortunately for the hosts, neither half-centurion could kick on and only 11 runs came from the final three overs.

Echo: Sam Cook took three wickets in one overSam Cook took three wickets in one over

If their total looked a little light, Cook’s momentous over soon made it look much larger.

Holden edged Cook’s first ball and though Rossington fumbled the chance, Simon Harmer grabbed the rebound at slip.

Cracknell lasted two balls before lobbing the gentlest of caught and bowled chances back to the seamer and the final ball saw Simpson brilliantly caught at second slip by Lawrence to leave the hosts in tatters.

Davies hit Harmer (two for 26) into the Edrich Stand as he and Eskinazi attempted a salvage operation, raising a 50 partnership off 41 balls.

When Cook returned Eskinazi struck him for six over point, but the run-rate required kept climbing and scoreboard pressure told when Eskinazi slapped one from Aaron Beard (two for 22) straight to Cook at cover to end the stand at 86.

Davies was caught in the deep in the next over and despite some late six-hitting from Behrendorff, Essex won with relative comfort as Middlesex suffered an eighth defeat in nine in the competition.