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Middlesex v Lancashire: home side reach lunch 80-4 at Lord’s

PUBLISHED: 12:44 19 September 2017 | UPDATED: 18:34 19 September 2017

Was it really a year ago Middlesex's players celebrated with the county title?

Was it really a year ago Middlesex's players celebrated with the county title?

PA Wire/PA Images

Bob Dylan once sang ‘there are no trials inside the Gates of Eden’,

For many, including this correspondent Lord’s is a form of Valhalla, one of the world’s great sporting sites, for the platform it provides, the cricketing gods it has hosted and the drama and memories it has offered up.

But there is trouble in Paradise. Or at least for the tenants of its owners.

For Middlesex CCC who rent the ground from Marylebone Cricket Club are struggling to keep their status as a division one side in the venerable county championship.

Like Trigger’s broom the competition has gone through many guises but is still going strong. A lot like the Seaxes as a club.

But what makes the club’s struggles even more perplexing, albeit in a tight league where 13 points separates the sides between third and seventh, is that they were the reigning champions. Until Essex’s delightful assumption of the crown last week with a team packed full of youthful promise and a couple of wily heads.

How the gods – Caerus perhaps, overseer of the realm of opportunity, luck and favorable moments – have chosen to shun Middlesex this summer after favouring them beyond all belief this time last year.

Was it only a year ago that this proud but welcoming club snatched the title from under the noses of their on-pitch rivals Yorkshire and Somerset, who if not relaxing on the beach were at the very least watching events unfold over a cider from the Taunton pavilion.

How ironic too that three of the four clubs threatened with their status are the same three. Plus Hampshire – who they met last week at a wet Mike Gatting way in suburban Uxbridge last week where they trudged through puddles to a truncated and joyless draw that did neither any favours – moving into the penultimate round of matches, to avoid joining Warwickshire in the lower tier next term.

A win against the Lancastrians at Lord’s, glorious evocative Lord’s, would see the home side safe barring a sporting miracle.

That of course means nothing when the wonderful vagaries of sport are applied to simple mathematics, but quite simply full points at home this week would go a long way to salving their survival.

Twenty minutes is not a long time in the duration of a first class cricket match scheduled for four days.

But twenty minutes was all it took for the team from the North West to demolish any hopes of a solid start. Four wickets fell as fast as hopes crumbled.

Two each to McLaren and Bailey, sounding more like a provincial firm of accounts, than Ryan and Tom, two excellent bowlers capitalising on the gunmental grey conditions with forbidding, overcast grey skies that made you ask why Australian captain Adam Voges, winning the toss chose to insert the visitors.

Perhaps the clue was in the word Australian as never has a sportsman from that country ever taken a backward step, even if you did wonder if he had Subiaco-born 37-year-old had momentarily confused the dry Perth pitches of his hometown with St John’s Wood in mid-September.

And so it began. Nick Compton went for nought after McClaren trapped him leg before with the score 0-1 in only the second over of the day. Sam Robson was next to fall, for six as Davies snaffled a chance off McLaren for his second wicket the score 11-2.

Steve Eskinazi was third down for seven, caught Villas off Bailey at 25-3, before Dawid Malan – England’s Dawid Malan – went for 12 as Davies and Bailey combined again.

Voges then moved the score on to 80-4 at lunch with 18 not out, in tandem with unbeaten John Simpson on a doughty 25 from 74 balls.

This Middlesex team has character. It has shown that many times during their rise under Gus Fraser since 2011.

They need to show it again now.

For didn’t Bob Dylan also sing Honey Just Allow Me One More Chance.

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