Cricket: Fuller’s pride at Middlesex fightback
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Middlesex bowler James Fuller felt the third day of their County Championship Division Two clash at Gloucestershire had gone according to plan.
James Harris (35) and Ethan Bamber (27 not out) put on 53 for the eighth wicket as Middlesex made 242 in their first innings, in reply to the home side’s 296.
And Tim Murtagh (2-20) nabbed a brace as Gloucestershire reduced to 87-4, for an overall lead of 141, despite the loss of 26 overs due to bad light.
Fuller said: “Our day went pretty much to plan. We set our sights on batting the first session and Ethan (Bamber) and James (Harris) did that really well.
“The bad light and rain then took time out of the game, something which was good for us. It slowed Gloucestershire down and allowed us to get back into it.
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“The pitch has offered very little throughout the game and it’s been hard work for the bowlers, but something changed this afternoon. The ball started doing a bit more and we were surprised to see batsmen missing the ball.
“If we can start well and get a couple of early wickets, then you never know. Our aim has to be to bowl them out in a session and then chase no more than 200 in about 60 overs. But they’ll be looking to bat for as long as possible, so it won’t be easy.”
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Resuming on 182-7, Middlesex added 60 runs in painstaking fashion before Payne mopped up the tail to finish with figures of 3-51.
Harris and Bamber raised stubborn resistance, but the advent of the second new ball proved decisive.
Gloucestershire effected the breakthrough they so badly needed when Harris, having chiseled 35 from 84 balls, offered a return catch to Payne.
Fuller came and went quickly, pushing at a length ball from Payne and offering a straightforward catch to wicket-keeper Roderick, while last man Murtagh cut a short-pitched delivery to point without scoring, leaving Bamber high and dry.
If Gloucestershire’s intention was to forge a meaningful lead and then declare, they were quickly disabused of the idea during an afternoon punctuated by regular breaks for drizzle and poor light.
Sensing an opportunity to put themselves back in contention, Middlesex’s battery of seam bowlers took full advantage.
They were aided and abetted by Gloucestershire skipper Chris Dent, who was needlessly run out for three by Nick Gubbins. James Bracey was next to go, Fuller producing an in-swinger to knock back the left hander’s off stump.
Worse followed for the home side when Benny Howell chipped Murtagh to mid-wicket and Gareth Roderick departed in identical fashion, held by Dawid Malan off the same bowler.
Having seen three top-order batsmen perish in single figures, Gloucestershire were well and truly under the cosh at 59-4. Thereafter, the defiant Hammond and fifth-wicket partner Jack Taylor (15 not out) adopted resolute defence mode to see out the final 11 overs without further mishap, no mean achievement in increasingly challenging conditions.