Middlesex v Hampshire: Defending champions draw on positives

James Franklin of Middlesex (pic Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo)

James Franklin of Middlesex (pic Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo) - Credit: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo

Middlesex ended a game blighted by autumnal downpours and unplayable conditions with nine bonus points in their bid to avoid relegation.

The finnal day of a rain-ruined clash at Uxbridge at least provided engaging entertainment on its final day as 14 wickets fell before rain and bad light returned just after 3.30pm forcing the players to shake hands on a draw.

By then Middlesex had reached 14-1 in their second innings for an overall lead in the match of 72 runs and captain James Franklin said: “It would have been nice to get a couple more sessions in for sure, but at the start of the day we set an objective of getting four bonus points and to take that, as well as the five for the draw after pretty much only a day’s cricket in total, is not too bad

“I don’t think we particularly bowled that well today but we manged to bowl them out in 36 overs, which is a general reflection of the conditions and the water levels in and around the surface here over the past four days.

“It closes it all up with two rounds to go and we can control ur own destiny to a point. We’ve got a home game with Lancashire next up, we know we’re in for a tough match but if we can get to the levels we’re capable of we can push for a win.

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“We’ve got Toby Roland-Jones back in consideration, Tim Murtagh and Paul Stirling back in the fold, Dawid Malan possibly back and Nick Gubbins with us after recovering from a hamstring, so we’ve got all sorts of things to think about selection wise. It’s a good headache to have.”

The best part of 250 overs were lost over the four days to weather, so inclement that additional covers had to be ferried over from Merchant Taylors School. Then, to ensure some play went ahead on Thursday afternoon, the Middlesex squad including their managing director, Angus Fraser, helped cover the square to ensure some late afternoon action.

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Responding to the modest Middlesex first innings all-out total of 204, Hampshire were skittled for 146 inside 32 overs to concede a surprise first-innings lead of 58 runs.

The visitors lost acting captain Jimmy Adams in only the third over of the reply when the left-hander feathered a Tom Helm lifter through to the keeper John Simpson.

Despite looking sound and compact in reaching 35, Joe Weatherley, who started the season on-loan with Kent, was squared up by a full-length Helm leg-cutter that took the edge and flew to Adam Voges at second slip.

Ollie Rayner was introduced for the obligatory over of spin before lunch and struck with his first delivery by having Tom Alsop caught behind cutting to one that bounced.

Hampshire’s demise gathered momentum after the interval as Steven Finn had Sean Ervine (0) and Calvin Dickinson (1) caught behind, while James Harris skittled Ian Holland (23) and debutant Felix Organ (16) with near identical full-length swinging deliveries.

The luck continued to fall the way of Middlesex when Harris deflected a fierce drive by Gareth Berg onto the stumps at the non-striker’s end to run out Kyle Abbott for 13.

Finn rushed one past Berg’s back-foot defensive shot to pluck out off stump and give the hosts maximum bowling bonus points and the deposed England spearhead then polished off the innings by pegging back middle stump after Fidel Edwards missed an airy drive.

Finn finished with 3-41, Helm 3-43 and Harris 2-27 as Hampshire succumbed in exactly two-and-a-half hours.

Middlesex had started the final day looking for at least one batting bonus point as they resumed their protracted first innings on 162-7.

Their bid to reach 200 appeared bleak initially when Rayner departed in the fourth over of the day when attempting to clip to the short, leg-side boundary against Abbott and picking out Mason Crane at forward square-leg to depart for nine.

Edwards, the pick of Hampshire’s attack, then snared Helm lbw, working around his front pad with the hosts still 31 runs shy of their batting point.

Simpson took that as his cue to unfurl a few drives which, together with the introduction of leg-spin in the shape of Crane, helped break Hampshire’s stranglehold and Simson duly pushed a single to backward square-leg off Crane to raise 200 and with it, the possibly crucial batting point.

Simpson and Finn added 35 for the 10th wicket before Simpson lost his middle stump to another good delivery from Edwards who finished with deserved figures of 5-79. Abbott finished with 3-25 while Holland took 2-31.

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