Middlesex on back foot as wickets tumble at Lancashire

John Simpson in batting action for Middlesex (pic Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo)

John Simpson in batting action for Middlesex (pic Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo) - Credit: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo

Simpson hits unbeaten half-century, takes three catches

A total of 14 wickets fell on a compelling opening day of the Specsavers County Championship clash between Lancashire and Middlesex at Southport, as the hosts took a slight advantage heading into day two.

It was a bowlers’ day from start to finish, despite the fact the near entirety of it was played under sunny skies.

Having won the toss, Middlesex skipper James Franklin wouldn’t have envisaged his side being bowled out before tea, but six wickets in the afternoon session reduced the visitors from 143-4 to 180 all out.

When Lancashire lost their first two wickets in the first over without a run on the board, 180 began to look a good score, but Shivnarine Chanderpaul spearheaded a gritty response that has just edged Lancashire in front.

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Lancashire’s 20-year-old seamer Saqib Mahmood caught the eye at the start of proceedings.

Talked up as a talent for some time but in just his third first-class game, he steamed in with good pace and rhythm to Middlesex’s opening pair of Sam Robson and Nick Gubbins.

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Mahmood got his reward when Gubbins feathered one down the leg side and was taken by Alex Davies for just one, but Robson looked in good touch on his return from five weeks out with a hamstring injury before he edged behind off Bailey for 15.

At 30-2, Middlesex were wobbling somewhat and their cause wasn’t helped when Dawid Malan took on a Bailey short ball from just his 11th delivery faced and popped it straight down the throat of Chanderpaul at fine leg.

Steve Eskinazi was also on his way before lunch, becoming the third to edge behind to Davies, who was becoming a key factor in the match and ended the innings with six catches – just one short of equalling the Lancashire record for most dismissals in an innings.

Davies picked up his fourth catch when Paul Stirling advanced down the track to Mahmood and suffered a legside death one run short of his half-century.

Stirling had looked confident at the crease, hitting nine boundaries and one big six, but his dismissal at 143-4 triggered a collapse.

Franklin chopped on to give Mahmood a third wicket, before Jordan Clark struck twice in the 47th over to remove James Harris and Toby Roland-Jones – both caught by Davies.

John Simpson provided stout resistance to the relentless tumbling of wickets, bringing up his 50 from 79 balls but he rapidly ran out of partners.

Tim Murtagh fell to Ryan McLaren for a duck and Ravi Patel picked out Stephen Parry in the deep off Clark to end the innings in double-quick time.

Wicketkeepers were flavour of the day as Simpson swiftly joined Davies in racking up the catches, holding the first three wickets of the Lancashire innings.

The first two fell in Murtagh’s opening over when Davies fell to the second ball of the innings and Liam Livingstone edged behind while advancing down the track for a golden duck.

Lancashire were 0-2 and captain Steven Croft had to survive a hat-trick ball. But survive it he did and, alongside Haseeb Hameed, began to dig in for the hosts as the pair shared a gritty 50-partnership for the third wicket.

However, the leg-side strangle had also dominated proceedings and remarkably Hameed became the fourth batsman to suffer the most frustrating of dismissals when he feathered one through to Simpson for 18.

Croft would also fall for a well-made 31, but Lancashire’s Kolpak pairing of Chanderpaul and Dane Vilas saw them through to the close on 123-4.

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