Middlesex v Warwickshire: Hosts take honours on rollercoaster day at Lord’s

Steven Finn of Middlesex (pic Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo)

Steven Finn of Middlesex (pic Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo) - Credit: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo

Wickets tumble on first day of county championship fixture

James Franklin and Ryan Higgins added 93 in 19 overs for the seventh wicket to shade the honours for Middlesex against Warwickshire on a helter-skelter day of Specsavers County Championship action at Lord’s.

Franklin played a captain’s innings of 55 from 76 balls, with a six and seven fours, and Higgins a gutsy 38 after being hit on the head, to rally Middlesex from 59-to 161 all out after they had earlier skittled Warwickshire for 126.

In four overs’ batting before stumps, Warwickshire scored 12 without loss to trail, overall, by 23 runs.

It was breathless stuff, on an opening day which started with Steven Finn bowling with real pace to take 4-53 in Warwickshire’s first innings and, with Tim Murtagh (3-20) and Tom Helm (2-42) equally impressive, putting Middlesex seemingly in command.

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But Warwickshire, winless so far this season and cast adrift at the bottom of the Division One table, fought back tigerishly after Chris Woakes marked his return from a two-month injury absence by taking a wicket with his fifth ball and 2-25 in a six-over new ball spell.

Soon, as wickets continued to fall either side of tea, Middlesex were themselves in deep trouble before Franklin and Higgins tilted the balance of an absorbing day back towards the champions.

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Franklin was eventually last out, caught at slip trying to run a ball from off spinner Jeetan Patel to third man.

It was quite a day for Higgins, who was a late inclusion after Adam Voges was injured in the warm-us but then chipped in with the wicket of Matt Lamb, had to retire hurt after being hit on the helmet trying to hook the first ball he faced, from Chris Wright, but then returned to bat with courage and character in support of Franklin. Higgins’ 38 came from 51 balls, with six fours.

Middlesex’s initial collapse featured a memorable championship debut for Warwickshire’s Ryan Sidebottom, a bustling 27-year-old Australian seamer with a British passport plucked from the Birmingham League and who took 8-33 for Warwickshire Second XI, against Northants seconds, two weeks ago.

Here, he finished with 4-29 after castling Middlesex tailenders Helm (2) and Murtagh (4).

In his first spell, Sidebottom had John Simpson leg before for two and bowled Nathan Sowter for a duck. In between, Wright picked up a good low catch off his own bowling to dismiss Nick Compton for 22 and, just before tea, Stevie Eskinazi ran himself out for seven after setting off for a risky single and being sent back by Compton.

Finn’s superb post-lunch spell of 3-3 hastened Warwickshire’s earlier slide – with Tim Ambrose and Keith Barker caught behind for four and 12 respectively and Woakes taken at second slip for 12.

The England fast bowler was well supported by Middlesex’s other seamers, with 23-year-old Helm also impressing and Murtagh as accurate as always as he included eight maidens in his 16 overs.

Helm, swinging the new ball at a decent lick with his rhythmical action, made the initial breakthrough on a green-tinged pitch after Warwickshire, who chose to bat, lost Andy Umeed for one in the sixth over when he edged a drive to Franklin at third slip.

Dominic Sibley, on Warwickshire championship debut following his switch from Surrey, played some confident strokes before, on 20, edging Finn low to Eskinazi at second slip.

Finn’s pace and bounce troubled Jonathan Trott, but it was the slippery Helm who removed the former England batsman for 18 when he moved one back up the Lord’s slope to take the inside edge on its way through to keeper Simpson.

Murtagh had produced a testing new ball spell of 7-5-5-0 and his reintroduction at the Nursery End quickly brought him a deserved wicket, with Bell (14) edging a lovely outswinger to Simpson.

At lunch Middlesex were 64-5 with Higgins bowling Lamb for three off an inside edge in his second over, and after the interval Finn and Murtagh completed Warwickshire’s misery.

That, though, was but a precursor to more breathless action during the rest of the afternoon and early evening. Whoever said championship cricket was boring?

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