Middlesex v Warwickshire: Defending champions frustrated

Middelsex's Ryan Higgins (pic Adam Davy/PA)

Middelsex's Ryan Higgins (pic Adam Davy/PA) - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Defending champions Middlesex were frustrated at Lord’s on day two of their Specsavers County Championship match with Warwickshire.

Matt Lamb, in just his third first-class match, hit a gritty 71 as the visitors fought back in determined style to breathe new life into a low-scoring contest.

Lamb, 21 last month and a product of Warwickshire’s age group system, played with the composure of a veteran across 165 balls and was joined by Chris Woakes, Jonathan Trott and Andy Umeed in a battling performance.

Woakes and Trott made half-centuries, with Woakes helping Lamb to add 102 in 32 overs for the sixth wicket in a partnership that could yet shape the outcome of this game.

Warwickshire had reached 293-8 by stumps, a lead of 258, with Ryan Higgins the pick of Middlesex’s bowlers with 4-49 and Tim Murtagh taking 3-52.

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Twenty wickets had fallen on day one, on a seaming surface, with Middlesex just 35 runs ahead on first innings after replying with 161 to Warwickshire’s 126, and a similar clatter of wickets was expected when the visitors began the second day still 23 runs adrift at 12 without loss.

Dominic Sibley fell early, edging Murtagh to keeper John Simpson to go for 17, but then Trott and Umeed began to turn the tables by adding 73 in 20 overs for the second wicket.

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Middlesex’s pace attack, so hostile on the first morning, did not pose the same threat and Steven Finn and Tom Helm bowled too many loose balls, but it was still a fine effort by the Warwickshire pair, with Trott hooking and pulling Helm to the boundary several times.

Opener Umeed fell for 30, shouldering arms to the first ball of Higgins’s second spell from the Nursery End and watching aghast as it nipped up the slope to clip his off stump.

Two balls later and Ian Bell was gone for a duck, leg-before to Higgins, who followed that up by having Trott caught behind in his next over for 54, made from only 73 balls and including 10 fours.

Suddenly, Warwickshire had slumped from 100-1 to 109-4 at lunch, and a Middlesex victory again seemed the likeliest outcome.

With the second ball of his second spell, Murtagh had Tim Ambrose caught at the wicket for 16 but, from 139-5, Lamb and Woakes led further resistance and batted with increasing confidence.

The Wolverhampton-born Lamb drove the disappointing Finn through extra cover with a flourish for one of his 10 fours – as did Woakes in the same over – and the pair were still together at tea, which Warwickshire took in some comfort at 218-5.

Higgins, summoned again to bowl his medium-pacers, ended the stand on 241 when Woakes, on 53, mishit to mid-on where Murtagh did well to hold on to a sprawling catch.

England all-rounder Woakes had faced 93 balls, hitting 11 fours and it was a fine effort in his first match for two months following an intercostal muscle injury lay-off.

The second new ball was taken at 255-6 and, in the fourth and fifth overs with it, Lamb edged Helm behind and Jeetan Patel was bowled for a duck aiming an ugly swipe at Murtagh.

Keith Barker, though, found a willing partner in number 10 Chris Wright and a further 31 had been added for the ninth wicket when bad light ended play seven overs early.

Barker is 30 not out, Wright is unbeaten on 11 and Warwickshire, bottom of Division One, will be aiming for their first championship win of the season on the third day of what has been a fascinating contest.

Middlesex wicketkeeper Simpson went past 400 career victims during the day and said: “There was still some movement to be had from the pitch this morning, but it flattened out a bit and got a bit slower. My milestone is a nice one to get but you depend on your bowlers as a keeper to get those chances.”

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