COUNTY CHAMPIONSHIP – Middlesex edge Warwickshire by 18 runs in a thriller at Lord’s

PUBLISHED: 18:11 24 July 2018 | UPDATED: 18:23 24 July 2018

Middlesex's Dawid Malan against Warwickshire. CREDIT John Walton/PA

Middlesex's Dawid Malan against Warwickshire. CREDIT John Walton/PA

PA Archive/PA Images

Middlesex won a thrilling match by just 18 runs against leaders Warwickshire in the final session of day three at Lord’s.

Middlesex's James Fuller. CREDIT John Walton/PA WireMiddlesex's James Fuller. CREDIT John Walton/PA Wire

Middlesex 236 & 242

Warwickshire 276 & 184

Middlesex 20pts beat Warwickshire 5pts by 18 runs

This grand old ground has seen some tight finishes in its time and this game can immediately be filed under the ‘low-scoring classic’ section.

In a game that shifted between these two proud old counties from the very first ball on Sunday morning, the home side dramatically grabbed the most unlikely of victories against the Division Two table-toppers.

Middlesex's James Harris. John Walton/PA Wire.Middlesex's James Harris. John Walton/PA Wire.

Momemtum fluctuated on another baking hot day in this endless summer heatwave leaving every single spectator inside the Home of Cricket to relish such a marvellous spectacle.

Perhaps the infernal ECB administrators who persist in pushing their concept of a 16.4 overs game – or whatever the hell it is – should be made to watch the spellbinding finish to understand that the long form of the game is worth fighting for, is worth saving, is worth watching.

They should then be told to release the purse strings on their not inconsiderable marketing budgets and be asked – no told – to spend the cash on selling the glory that is county cricket.

Because nothing else comes close to building tension than a first class match.

The County Chamnpionship tests talent, technique, character and temperament. T20 may have raised fielding standards through increased athleticism, forged a climate where creativity is encouraged, and of course pulled punters through the gates – all of which are a good thing.

But the slow burn of interest through the narrative of a four day match cannot be replicated in the shorter form of the game – let alone the nonsense engendered from 100 ball cricket.

Middlesex’s James Fuller emerged the hero with 3-40 as Middlesex beat Division Two leaders Warwickshire by 18 runs in a thriller at Lord’s.

In just his second Championship of the season, the former Gloucestershire paceman claimed three wickets in two spells after tea, sealing victory with a Yorker which squeezed under the bat of Chris Wright.

Middlesex's Tim Murtagh (pic John Walton/PA)Middlesex's Tim Murtagh (pic John Walton/PA)

It ended a heroic last-wicket stand of 22 between Wright and Ryan Sidebottom, so denying Warwickshire a sixth win of the campaign.

They remain top, but with a lead cut to seven points, while victory for Dawid Malan’s means they hang on to the coat-tails of the leading five.

Middlesex began the day 183-6, just 143 ahead and needing their tail to wag as it had done first innings.

Wicketkeeper John Simpson (33) began positively, striking five boundaries and though he lost Ollie Rayner to a fine slip catch by Jonathan Trott off the bowling of Chris Woakes, for a while the hosts stood firm.

However, Simpson was becalmed and eventually undone by a Jeetan Patel delivery which turned a fraction and bowled him off-stump. It gave the stalwart spinner a return of 5-56 – reward for his wizardry.

Fuller paid for his hesitation when he was run out by Woakes’s throw from mid-on without troubling the scorers and Tim Murtagh was last out, also for nought, bowled by Oliver Hannon-Dalby.

Warwickshire, needing 203 were left with an awkward 15 minutes before lunch, in which time Murtagh struck twice. The warhorse of the home attack first produced a peach off an out-swinger to remove Dominic Sibley caught at slip by Ollie Rayner for nought.

Two balls later came the prize wicket of Ian Bell courtesy of one which went the other way and bowled him through the gate to leave Warwickshire 10-2, their lunch a little less digestible.

John Simpson of Middlesex (pic: John Walton/PA)John Simpson of Middlesex (pic: John Walton/PA)

On the resumption, Murtagh’s new-ball partner Harris (2-55) took up the quest for wickets, bowling first-innings centurion Will Rhodes with one which kept a fraction low.

Trott remained batting with composure until a brilliant tactical change brought about his downfall. Simpson stood up to the stumps to keep the veteran in his crease whereupon Murtagh produced a full ball to snare him right in front.

Woakes didn’t stay long, pinned LBW by Rayner, meaning Warwickshire were in trouble at 64-5.

But in another twist Sam Hain (37) and Tim Ambrose swung things back towards the men from the midlands with an increasingly assured stand of 44.

Harris ended Hain’s resistance when another LBW shout was upheld, but Ambrose (41), so often the scourge of Middlesex, steered his side to tea without further loss, by which time only 61 were needed.

The hosts needed someone to rid them of the dangerman and Fuller stepped up in the first over after the restart, finding an edge which flew to Rayner’s safe hands at slip.

And when Murtagh (4-54), unusually for him, now bowling from the Pavilion End trapped Patel in front Middlesex were favourites.

Fuller then struck again when Hannon-Dalby nicked through to Simpson with 41 still needed.

Amid unbelievable tension, last pair Wright and Sidebottom inched towards the target in singles.

Thirty-five became 30 and then 20, Wright surviving a shy at the stumps which would have seen him short of his ground.

Balls whistled past the edge too, but just when it seemed Warwickshire might sneak home after all Fuller had the last say.

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