Cricket: Middlesex face battle to avoid Lancashire loss at Lord's
PUBLISHED: 19:11 13 April 2019 | UPDATED: 19:11 13 April 2019
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Middlesex must battle to salvage a draw on the final day after Rob Jones' century kept Lancashire in command of their County Championship clash at Lord's.
Jones’ 122 was his highest score in Championship cricket and only his second hundred in the competition – having also recorded his first against Middlesex, at Old Trafford in September 2016.
He shared a fifth-wicket stand of 143 with Lancashire captain Dane Vilas (68) as the visitors crafted a healthy first-innings lead of 162, with Tim Murtagh (5-69) collecting his second five-wicket haul in as many games.
Middlesex made steady progress towards wiping out that deficit, but they lost the wickets of Nick Gubbins and Stevie Eskinazi to close on 68-2, still 94 runs behind.
Lancashire’s hopes of building quickly on their overnight position of 267-4 were thwarted by three separate rain interruptions, which meant they only received 13 overs in a truncated morning session.
Nevertheless, Jones and Vilas stretched their side’s advantage on a pitch that gave virtually no assistance to the bowlers, with Toby Roland-Jones particularly unfortunate to finish wicketless.
Roland-Jones found some rhythm during the afternoon session and almost removed Vilas with an inside edge that missed the stumps, while another edge off Steven Finn flew just wide of slip.
Jones, meanwhile, took a knock on the helmet when he misjudged a short ball from James Harris, but he got up to hook the same bowler for successive boundaries and then reached his century by cutting Finn for another four.
Just as he had done earlier in the innings – taking a return catch to dismiss second-day centurion Haseeb Hameed – it was Middlesex captain Dawid Malan (3-60) who eventually achieved the breakthrough.
Malan’s leg-spin pinned Vilas leg before, and he followed that up with another wicket at the start of the evening session as Josh Bohannon (5) was snapped up by Sam Robson, leaping to his right at slip.
Murtagh then clipped the off stump of Tom Bailey (1) and finally won an lbw decision to bring Jones’ five hours-plus occupation of the crease to an end.
Alex Davies, batting down the order after injuring his thumb on the first day, contributed a useful 17 before he became Murtagh’s fifth victim, top-edging an attempted pull to give John Simpson an easy catch.
Harris (2-105) rounded off the innings by bowling Graham Onions (12), but not before the Red Rose county had extended their lead to 162.
That left Middlesex to negotiate 22 overs before the close – but Gubbins lasted just five balls, departing for a duck as James Anderson found his outside edge and Glenn Maxwell pouched the catch at second slip.
Despite another scare – when Sam Robson (41*) just managed to scramble back to the non-striker’s end after calling for a very optimistic single – he and Eskinazi (25) looked fairly comfortable as they put on 68 for the second wicket.
But Eskinazi fell lbw to Onions in the penultimate over to keep Middlesex under pressure heading into day four.