Middlesex and Essex clash ends in a draw

PUBLISHED: 19:23 24 April 2017 | UPDATED: 19:23 24 April 2017

The new cricket season is underway (pic PA)

The new cricket season is underway (pic PA)

PA/Press Association Images

Bad light helps visitors avoid defeat at Lord’s

Middlesex were left frustrated by bad light and lower-order resistance as Essex escaped from their Specsavers Couty Championship clash with a draw at Lord’s.

The defending champions were on course for their first win of the season when they reduced Essex, who were chasing a notional target of 452, to 130-7 in the first over after tea.

But eighth-wicket pair Neil Wagner and Simon Harmer blunted Middlesex’s attack for 15 overs and as the light deteriorated home skipper James Franklin was forced to employ slow bowlers at both ends.

Leg spinner Dawid Malan immediately had Harmer (20) lbw as he tried to defend off the back foot but only two more overs were possible before umpires Ian Gould and Paul Baldwin took the players off for the third time in the day with 13 overs remaining, Essex 160-8 and Wagner unbeaten on 16.

Middlesex head coach Richard Scott said: “I thought we were the dominant side throughout and had it not been for bad light at the end, there would have had a very sound victory.

“That was frustrating but I thought we were back to our best in this game. The top three were excellent in both innings and in the first innings we had partnerships all the way down, after we’d been put in to bat of course.

“And I thought we bowled very well. Steve Finn in particular got into a really good rhythm today and was unlucky not to get a few more wickets. We couldn’t really complain too much when the umpires took us off because the light had got worse, it was just one of those things but we did a lot of things very well throughout the four days.”

Essex spin bowler Simon Harmer added: “To still be unbeaten after three Championship games since promotion is a very good start for us and this has turned out to be a very good draw.

“We fought hard against a good side and from a personal point of view it was an enjoyable game. It was the first time I have played at Lord’s and it was nice to get some wickets, although I wish my economy rate had been a bit better perhaps.

“But it was a brilliant experience and hopefully I will have many more opportunities to play at Lord’s.”

The draw was harsh on Middlesex whose three-man seam attack, backed up by off-spinner Ollie Rayner, had chipped away all day on a wicket which hardly deteriorated, even though cloud cover did encourage the ball to swing.

Toby Roland-Jones finished with 3-42 and Steven Finn 2-39, while it was Rayner who picked up former England captain Alastair Cook caught at short leg for 37 with his third delivery of the day.

Cook had passed 20,000 first-class runs when he reached 16 and looked in the mood to repeat last week’s century in Essex’s win over Somerset, particularly when he drove first Tim Murtagh and then Roland-Jones back down the ground for four.

Apart from Cook, Essex’s main resistance came from Ravi Bopara (32) who dug in for just over two hours before he was seventh out in the first over after tea to a ball from Finn which jagged back sharply to knock back his off stump.

Conditions were as good as they had been all day at that stage, but Harmer and Neil Wagner defied Finn and Roland-Jones for 10 overs to give their team the chance of escape.

Franklin had the luxury of runs on the board and enjoyed the happy knack of making bowling changes which brought immediate reward.

Middlesex’s slip fielding was faultless too, with Malan epitomising their catching performance when he dived to his left to remove Adam Wheater for a duck in the first over of a new spell from Roland-Jones.

Earlier, Essex had added 19 runs to their overnight 19-0 when Tim Murtagh made the breakthrough, bowling Nick Browne (19) through the gate.

Cook and Tom Westley took the score to 74 when Westley (13) was lbw to a ball from Roland-Jones that kept a touch low and Cook fell without addition to the total.

After lunch Essex lost two wickets on 104 when Dan Lawrence (13) was held at slip driving at Finn before Wheater’s dismissal.

Captain Ryan ten Doeschate (1) became Roland-Jones’ third victim but rain and bad light forced the teams off for an hour after a two-over stoppage during the morning.

Bopara’s dismissal on the resumption left the Essex tail with 30 overs to survive but with a little help from the weather they were able to do so as Middlesex picked up 12 points and Essex eight.

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