County Championship: Middlesex begin Division Two campaign with swift win at home to Northamptonshire
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County Championship Middlesex (214 & 159) beat Northamptonshire (71 & 142) by 160 runs
Tim Murtagh and James Harris grabbed four wickets apiece as Middlesex launched their Specsavers County Championship campaign with victory over Northamptonshire inside two-and-a-half days.
Murtagh returned figures of 4-36, with Harris taking 4-39 to clean up the Northants second innings for 142 and secure a 160-run success for their side at Lord’s.
A half-century partnership between Rob Newton and skipper Alex Wakely gave the visitors a flicker of hope in pursuit of a daunting 302, but once they had been parted, the floodgates opened.
Victory always looked a tall order for Northants, who resumed in the morning at 9-0 — with a further 294 required on a pitch that had seen 26 wickets fall the previous day.
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The odds lengthened when they lost Ben Duckett (9) to the fifth ball of the morning, fending off a rising delivery from Murtagh to short-leg.
Brett Hutton (6) was promoted to three, with clear instructions to throw the bat, and immediately smote Murtagh back over his head to the boundary.
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But he perished later in the same over, having another swing outside off stump — and Northants slumped to 44-3 when Harris pinned Luke Proctor (8) leg before.
Although Murtagh repeatedly beat the outside edge, Newton (44) and Wakely (26) went for their shots and kept the scoreboard ticking over as they added 51 for the fourth wicket.
Toby Roland-Jones, returning for his second spell of the morning, ended the stand by persuading Newton — who had been dropped in the gully the previous over — to slash outside off stump.
And the introduction of Middlesex medium-pacer Hilton Cartwright for his first spell in county cricket proved to be inspired as the Australian trapped Wakely lbw with only his fourth delivery.
Richard Levi and Adam Rossington guided Northants to the lunch interval at 124-5, but by that stage Middlesex’s victory seemed only a matter of time.
In fact, it took the home side just another 38 balls to blow away the Northamptonshire lower order, with Murtagh swiftly sending Rossington back to the pavilion, leg before for two.
Harris, who had demolished Northants with a five-wicket haul in their first innings, stepped up his claim for another by removing Levi (23) and Doug Bracewell (6), both to slip catches.
The Middlesex man collected his fourth scalp of the innings by taking a skier off his own bowling to dismiss Josh Cobb (7) and leave the visitors on the brink.
But it was Murtagh who polished Northants off in the next over, winning an lbw appeal against Ben Sanderson (0) — and immediately raising his hand to Harris in a gesture of apology for denying him the five-for.