Middlesex v Lancashire: Seaxes’ tail reaches 233 before bowlers make inroads as 15 wickets fall on day one
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Middlesex’s tail wagged to end their first innings against Lancashire on 233 all out – after earlier subsiding to 89-7 as the home side’s bowlers then made significant inroads to leave the visitors on 113-5 as 15 wickets fell on day one.
England bowler Toby-Roland Jones showed he can also bat by hitting 53, supported by Olly Rayner who made an unbeaten 52 as they landed what could be a valuable batting point.
Ryan McLaren and Tom Bailey were the pick of the visitors bowlers as they grabbed nine wickets between them, even if the feeling was that the home side could and should have been dead and buried long before then.
But that was without factoring in the batting prowess of the lower order.
Middlesex’s effective bowling unit – including the estimable Roland-Jones and Murtagh – along with Steven Finn, showed their prowess by then claiming five wickets between them as Lancashire ended the day on 113-5.
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Bob Dylan once sang ‘there are no trials inside the Gates of Eden’.
For many, including this correspondent Lord’s is a form of Valhalla, one of the world’s great sporting sites, for the platform it provides, the cricketing gods it has hosted and the drama and memories it has offered up.
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But there is trouble in Paradise. Or at least for the tenants of its owners.
For Middlesex CCC who rent the ground from Marylebone Cricket Club are struggling to keep their status as a division one side in the venerable county championship.
Like Trigger’s broom the competition has gone through many guises but is still going strong. A lot like the Seaxes as a club.
But what makes the club’s struggles even more perplexing, albeit in a tight league where 13 points separates the sides between third and seventh, is that they were the reigning champions. Until Essex’s delightful assumption of the crown last week with a team packed full of youthful promise and a couple of wily heads.
How the gods – Caerus perhaps, overseer of the realm of opportunity, luck and favorable moments – have chosen to shun Middlesex this summer after favouring them beyond all belief this time last year.
Was it only a year ago that this proud but welcoming club snatched the title from under the noses of their on-pitch rivals Yorkshire and Somerset, who if not relaxing on the beach were at the very least watching events unfold over a cider from the Taunton pavilion.
How ironic too that three of the four clubs threatened with their status are the same three. Plus Hampshire – who they met last week at a wet Mike Gatting way in suburban Uxbridge last week where they trudged through puddles to a truncated and joyless draw that did neither any favours – moving into the penultimate round of matches, to avoid joining Warwickshire in the lower tier next term.
A win against the Lancastrians at Lord’s, glorious evocative Lord’s, would see the home side safe barring a sporting miracle.
That of course means nothing when the wonderful vagaries of sport are applied to simple mathematics, but quite simply full points at home this week would go a long way to salving their survival.
Twenty minutes is not a long time in the duration of a first class cricket match scheduled for four days.
But twenty minutes was all it took for the team from the North West to demolish any hopes of a solid start. Four wickets fell as fast as hopes crumbled.
Two each to McLaren and Bailey, sounding more like a provincial firm of accounts, than Ryan and Tom, two excellent bowlers capitalising on the gunmental grey conditions with forbidding, overcast grey skies that made you ask why Australian captain Adam Voges, winning the toss chose to insert the visitors.
Perhaps the clue was in the word Australian as never has a sportsman from that country ever taken a backward step, even if you did wonder if he had Subiaco-born 37-year-old had momentarily confused the dry Perth pitches of his hometown with St John’s Wood in mid-September, albeit on a pitch that would worsen rather than improve for batsmen of course.
And so it began. Nick Compton went for nought after McClaren trapped him leg before with the score 0-1 in only the second over of the day. Sam Robson was next to fall, for six as Davies snaffled a chance off McLaren for his second wicket the score 11-2.
Steve Eskinazi was third down for seven, caught Villas off Bailey at 25-3, before Dawid Malan – England’s Dawid Malan – went for 12 as Davies and Bailey combined again with the score on 28-4.
Voges then moved the score on to 80-4 at lunch with 18 not out, in tandem with unbeaten John Simpson on a doughty 25 from 74 balls.
This Middlesex team has character. It has shown that many times during their rise under Gus Fraser since 2011.
They need to show it again now.
For didn’t Bob Dylan also sing Honey Just Allow Me One More Chance.
Unfortunately for Voges he didn’t get a second chance straight after lunch as he was out without moving the score as Baily grabbed his third wicket and first lbw.
James Harris was net to fall one run later as McLaren castled him for his third wicket.
81-6 soon became 89-7 after Simpson was out for a battling 29 off 103 balls as Bailey made it wicket number four with Davies showing safe hands for his third catch.
At this point many wondered if the Seaxes would reach three figures.
But that was without factoring the grit and determination Middlesex’s tail, especially Rayner, England’s ‘Ro-Jo’s as his team-mates call him, and Tim Murtagh.
Big Rayner put on 102 with Roland-Jones for the eighth-wicket partnership before Jarvis trapped him leg before with the score on a far more respectable 191-8 as he departed to an ovation for his 53 off 102 balls.
The Watford Wall, Steve Finn was next in as the home side notched a valuable batting point before Bailey grabbed his fifth wicket as the England paceman fell for eight and Middlesex 208-9. The impish Murtagh then hit a vital 18 before he succumbed to McLaren, as fittingly given his efforts Bailey held a catch at mid-on.
It was just as fitting that Rayner had also reached his half-century moments earlier to end on 52 not out – a sterling effort from this underrated lower order batsman who has two first class centuries to his name.
The tail had wagged enough to post a score that kept Middlesex in the game as Lancashire went out to bat.
Could a sloppy 45 minutes in the field have cost the visitors dear?
At 40-3 after Roland-Jones had promising England youngster Haseem Hasbeeb lbw for three to make it 22-1 with Murtagh adding Davies for 19, also lbw the next over with score the same and Murtagh bowling Vilas for five it certainly felt that way.
Nick Compton then caught Livingstone off Finn for 16 as the away team stood at a precarious 56-4.
The steadfast – and timeless at 43 – Shivnarane Chanderpaul came out to stem the flow somewhat before Voges caught him off Roland-Jones on 29.
But as Lancashire ended on 113-5 at the close – on a day when 15 wickets fell – you were reminded of another Dylan tune, ‘I Threw It All Away’.