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Paul Stirling believes Middlesex can make it third time lucky next season after narrowly missing out on the CB40 semi-finals for the second year running.

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The Panthers secured second place in Group A with a comprehensive victory over Essex Eagles at Lord’s on Monday, but their record was not good enough to claim a semi-final spot as the best runners-up.

It was exactly the same scenario as in 2011, when Middlesex defeated the eventual group winners – Sussex Sharks – at Lord’s, but still had to settle for second place.

Stirling, who scored his first Lord’s century when the Panthers thumped this year’s group winners Lancashire Lightning in May, told london24.com: “We’ve shown we can beat anyone on our day.

“Finishing second this year and last year, it’s obviously disappointing not to get into the semi-finals but that’s no easy task. We should still be proud of coming second.

“You look at our team and there’s talent all the way up and down it. I think some solid performances, combined with a little bit of luck, and we’ll get there.

“It’s just about improving year on year and hopefully next season we can be one step ahead, get a couple more wins and that’ll be us in the semi-finals.”

The Ireland international, who turns 22 next week, was one of four Middlesex batsmen to reach three figures in their CB40 programme, with Eoin Morgan hitting two centuries – one in that same Lancashire match – and Chris Rogers scoring a ton at Gloucestershire.

The final member of the quartet was Dawid Malan, who smashed a classy 134 on Monday to set up a formidable Panthers total of 288 before Essex fell 54 runs short under the Duckworth-Lewis calculation.

First-team newcomer Gurjit Sandhu caught the eye with the ball, taking 3-28, but Stirling also played his part with 2-22, including the wickets of half-centurions Tom Westley and Owais Shah.

“I’m delighted to see Dawid in such good nick – he’s really shown what a good player he is in the last month or so,” added Stirling.

“For me, the highlight of this season was batting with Morgs for that amount of time. It was pretty good to be at the other end watching that – even if it did overshadow my century!

“I think you have to be a 3D cricketer, as people say, and add something with the ball, and I think that’s coming out all right.”

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