Middlesex precariously placed in crucial County Championship clash with Nottinghamshire

Nottinghamshire's Jake Ball

Nottinghamshire's Jake Ball - Credit: EMPICS Sport

Nottinghamshire seamer Jake Ball wrecked Middlesex’s top order for the second time in the match to leave their County Championship title hopes on a knife-edge.

Ball, who had taken a hat-trick in Middlesex’s first innings, picked up another three early wickets to leave the visitors in trouble as they chased an awkward target of 235 at Trent Bridge.

Middlesex ended the third day on 48-3 in a match they must win to avoid losing the league leadership to defending champions Yorkshire, who are well placed to beat Durham at Headingley.

Resuming at 24 without loss, Nottinghamshire made steady progress in the morning, although Jake Libby (18) was caught behind nibbling at an outswinger from Toby Roland-Jones (2-49).

Steven Mullaney batted positively in his knock of 64, but shortly before lunch he fell lbw to Ollie Rayner – who then put down Tom Moores at slip in the next over.

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However, Rayner (4-83) got his man for 28 after lunch when Moores miscued to backward point and the home side were looking unsteady at 141-4 when Michael Lumb edged Steven Finn behind.

Finn (3-57) found his rhythm during the afternoon session, trapping Brendan Taylor (17) leg before and then removing Nottinghamshire captain Chris Read, caught at second slip for a duck.

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First innings centurion Samit Patel threatened to frustrate Middlesex’s progress again, reaching 36 before a low delivery from Roland-Jones uprooted his off stump.

Rayner pinned Ball (4) lbw, but Brett Hutton (32 not out) was aided by Imran Tahir, who bludgeoned 16 before skying the off-spinner to long-on and the innings ended when James Franklin’s throw from cover ran out Harry Gurney (1).

Middlesex’s second innings began almost as disastrously as their first had – with Nick Gubbins edging Ball’s first delivery to Read.

Sam Robson fared little better, mustering only two before Ball brought one back in to hit his off stump – and Dawid Malan (11) became the paceman’s third victim, trapped in front of his wicket.

Nick Compton held firm with an unbeaten 26, while Steve Eskinazi (5no) remains with him at the crease - but Middlesex are likely to need a big innings from one of them on Friday to avoid their first County Championship defeat of the season.

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