Report: Middlesex v Warwickshire, County Championship
Craig Miles and Olly Hannon-Dalby took three weeks apiece as Warwickshire claimed a thrilling final-day victory against Middlesex at Lord’s.
Bears’ bowlers stuck to their task, dismissing Middlesex for 251 in their second innings despite a spirited knock of almost seven hours by Robson, who carried his bat for 107 not out.
Ryan Higgins provided support with 57, but Miles’ three for 52 was backed up by Hannon-Dalby, who finished with match figures of eight for 81 and pass 50 in the Championship this season, as the hosts slipped from 205/3 to 251 all out.
Although an afternoon downpour threatened to derail Warwickshire’s success, leaving them with just 10 overs to chase 58, Rob Yates and Ed Barnard guided their side home with nine balls to spare.
Middlesex began the day 98 in arrears and Barnard immediately sent a couple of deliveries whizzing just past Robson’s outside edge before the opener steered him through point for four.
However, Jack Davies soon perished to a rash stroke, having failed to increase his overnight score of 10 when he swatted a loose delivery from Miles into the hands of backward square leg.
The seamer also claimed the scalp of Joe Cracknell, who had just struck him for two boundaries but was lured into a trap next ball, miscuing the pull as Miles switched to around the wicket and tempted him with a short one.
Three down and 74 short of making the Bears bat again, the home side urgently needed a partnership and Higgins settled down to build one of 85 with Robson as the pair whittled down the deficit.
Two overs of off-spin from Yates helped them to do that, disappearing for 20 as Higgins fished the reverse sweep out of his locker and Middlesex went to lunch just 13 behind their opponents.
A stray leg-side ball from Miles that went for two byes took the batting side into positive territory and, in the next over, Higgins reached his half-century with a sweet straight drive off Barnard for four.
But the bowler quickly responded by breaching Higgins’ defence to hit his off stump – just as he had done in the first innings – and reignited the Bears’ prospects of pressing for victory, with the new ball on the horizon.
Those were strengthened further still as Danny Briggs had John Simpson caught at short leg before Hannon-Dalby and Chris Rushworth took joint ownership of the new ball, picking up a wicket apiece to plunge Middlesex deeper into trouble at 234 for seven.
Despite that pressure, Robson maintained his focus to progress to three figures from 251 balls, squirting Rushworth for a leg-side single, while Tom Helm dug in to deny Warwickshire further success prior to tea.
Having survived more than half an hour, Helm was undone by one from Hannon-Dalby that kept low and the same bowler eventually brought Ethan Bamber’s dogged resistance to an end by finding the edge of his bat.
With the sky darkening, Warwickshire had to revert to spin and the second ball of Briggs’ first over was enough to fox Tim Murtagh – who registered a duck in his final innings at Lord’s – and leave the visitors with an apparent 25 overs to chase their modest target.
As the Bears’ top-order batters sprinted towards the pavilion, though, the heavens opened and the resulting delay reduced their allocation of overs by 60 per cent when play resumed an hour later.
Alex Davies moved up to open and carted Murtagh into the grandstand for six before the bowler trapped him lbw – and a superb reaction by Simpson to stump Dan Mousley earned the 42-year-old his eighth wicket of the match.
But there was to be no fairytale finish for Murtagh, with Barnard clubbing Jayant Yadav over the top and running three to secure Warwickshire’s victory.
First Team Coach, Mark Robinson said: “We’ve worked really hard over four days. I thought the weather was going to catch us at the end, but we’ve come out on the right side of it and we played some good cricket on a flat wicket.
“Today was about desire. We didn’t quite get it right for about an hour yesterday at the start of their innings. At this time of year you’re asking players to dig really deep for the win and they’ve been magnificent.
“Sam (Robson) played really well for Middlesex, but we just kept getting the odd wicket when we needed it.
“We’ve got the best drying ground in the world, which always gives you a chance and we felt we were going to get something – it was just how many and 10 overs was fair enough. But I think we’d have felt pretty cheesed off if that had deprived us.
“As an attack they’ve done really well. It’s been a good comeback game for Craig Miles to back up last week, with that little spell this morning when he bounced out a couple.
“Olly (Hannon-Dalby) has been magnificent in all competitions this year, he leads us really well and he and Rushy (Chris Rushworth) are a really good combination.”
Warwickshire were left frustrated on Day Three as the weather dampened their hopes of making serious inroads into Middlesex’s second innings, as the hosts Sam Robson passed 50 for the fourth time this season.
The former England opener mixed watchful defence with excellent driving to make 51 not out in a stay of a little over two hours as the Middlesex reached 96-1, still 98 short of making Warwickshire bat again.
Earlier, Will Rhodes, 102, completed his ninth first-class hundred and his third at Lord’s, but Danny Briggs fell one short of a second ever century, their efforts taking Warwickshire to a first innings total of 315.
Rhodes, 95 not out overnight, soon reached his century, sending a rare loose ball from Tim Murtagh to the square leg boundary for his 13th four of his innings. He couldn’t though push on, departing soon afterwards, slashing Ethan Bamber’s first ball of the day into the hands of gully, ending a stand of 143 with Briggs.
If the hosts hoped his departure would allow them to mop up the tail, they were disappointed as Craig Miles came in to lend staunch support to Briggs who on-drove Josh De Caires for four to reach 84.
A few balls later came the day’s controversy, as an attempted sweep by Briggs came off the inside edge, flicked off the front of his back pad which was parallel to the ground and deflected into the gloves of a diving John Simpson. Home celebrations though were cut short when umpire Graham Lloyd didn’t raise his finger.
Such a stroke of luck pointed to Briggs reaching only the second century of his career and his first for six years. However, after Murtagh scattered Miles’ stumps to claim his sixth wicket, Briggs got twitchy on 99, sending an attempted pull skywards, Simpson running forward to complete a simple catch. Even so, Warwickshire ended with a first innings lead of 194.
Stoneman survived a huge shout for lbw as he and Robson negotiated the four overs before lunch and after the resumption, the duo played with greater assurance.
Robson especially looked in good touch, driving successive fours off Oliver Hannon-Dalby as the 50-stand was raised before a storm stopped play for two hours with 24 overs lost.
When play resumed, Stoneman cracked three fours from one Hannon-Dalby over, while Robson twice drove Ed Barnard deliveries to the mid-on fence in the next.
Rhodes’ response was to throw the ball to Miles in search of a breakthrough and the seamer obliged, his very first ball finding the inside edge of Stoneman’s bat to give wicketkeeper Michael Burgess a simple catch.
Robson however, cut one from Chris Rushworth to the fence at point to raise his half-century before a second cloudburst ended play for the day.
Miles, said: “They batted nicely tonight with the partnership between Robson and Stoneman, but it’s set for an intriguing day tomorrow. Who knows what can happen.
“I think batting conditions have got easier, but we saw tonight when the clouds came over just before it started raining, there’s a little bit more in the wicket when that happens.
“Briggsy and Will Rhodes’ partnership gave us a stronghold in the game and even when I was out there batting with Briggsy it felt the wicket had lost that consistency of movement. It still offered a little bit, especially with the new ball, but it has got more batting friendly as the game has gone on.
“I haven’t played too much four-day cricket for Warwickshire this year, so to come in and try and contribute is good. In a way I’m probably a bit fresher than Ollie (Hannon-Daly) and Rushy (Chris Rushworth) who have been doing it all year. So to give what I can energy-wise, run in hard and contribute at the bottom end, it’s nice to be able to do that.
“I’ve been a bit short of game time, but these last few games are an opportunity for me to try and put my hat in the ring for next April.”
Will Rhodes and Danny Briggs shared a century stand as Warwickshire surged into a strong position on a severely truncated day two of their clash with relegation-threatened Middlesex at Lord’s.
Middlesex seamer Tim Murtagh, who retires at the end of the season, took two early wickets to complete a five-wicket haul (5-55) on his last appearance for the county to reduce the visitors to 95-6 in the first hour of play.
However, with the veteran’s support cast lacking any direction or rhythm, Rhodes (95) and Briggs (71) added an unbroken 133 for the seventh wicket to steer the Bears to 228-6, a lead of 107 before rain washed out any further play less than an hour after lunch.
To add to Middlesex’s woes, all-rounder Ryan Higgins left the field just prior to lunch with what appeared to be a rib or side injury and it remains to be seen whether he will be able to return to the attack in the match.
Rhodes, unbeaten on 36 overnight got the scoreboard moving with a drive which deflected off the stumps, wrongfooting opposing skipper Mark Stoneman fielding at mid-off and speeding away for four.
However, it wasn’t long before Murtagh was producing another seam masterclass from his beloved Nursey End.
A superb inswinger trapped Ed Barnard on the crease to end his skittish innings of 10. The former Ireland international topped that effort in his next over with one which deviated a fraction off the surface to beat the inside edge of Michael Burgess and crash into the stumps.
Sadly, from a Middlesex perspective he couldn’t bowl forever and once he retreated from the attack, Rhodes and Briggs wrestled back control of the game against far friendlier offerings.
Rhodes despatched a Tom Helm long hop to the square leg fence to reach 50 from 110 balls and when Jayant Yadav, troubled by no-ball issues, changed ends, Briggs contemptuously reversed swept his fellow spinner for four to move Warwickshire into the lead. Another four to third man raised the 50 stand and by lunch the visitors were 59 ahead.
Briggs survived a big shout for caught behind off Yadav from the first ball after lunch before launching an assault on some ordinary bowling, his ninth four taking him past 50 for only the seventh time in his first-class career.
The 100-stand was raised, and the assured Rhodes was within sight of his ninth first-class hundred when the weather closed in.
Briggs said: “It was a good day’s work in the end. It was nice to accumulate a score and a partnership with Rhodesy and get us ahead. From an iffy place we are in quite a good position now and hopefully we will kick on tomorrow.
“I like coming in getting some runs when it is backs to the wall. I suppose it’s a good trait to have. If I could do it more consistently it would be nice.
“The sweep and reverse sweep are something I practise heaps indoors and outdoors really. It’s about trying to play my game and stick to a game-plan.
“There was a little bit of spin for Jayant when the ball was wider. Hopefully it keeps deteriorating a little bit and there’s more spin towards the end of the game.
“It is going to be important we extend this lead because batting last may be more of a challenge come the back end of the game.”
Olly Hannon-Dalby starred with a five-wicket haul as Warwickshire’s seamers took advantage of bowler-friendly conditions at Lord’s to dismiss relegation-threatened Middlesex for 121.
Hannon-Dalby finished with five for 29 under overcast skies to move within one wicket of 50 in this year’s LV= Insurance County Championship, while Chris Rushworth and Ed Barnard collected two apiece as the hosts were bowled out in 39.5 overs.
But the spotlight then shifted to Middlesex stalwart Tim Murtagh, who is playing at Lord’s for the last time prior to retirement and pulled his side back into contention with a quick burst of wickets.
The 42-year-old removed three of Warwickshire’s top four before skipper Will Rhodes’ undefeated 36 steered the Bears to 72 for four at stumps, a deficit of 49.
With gloomy conditions and drizzle in the morning, it was no surprise Rhodes chose to bowl after winning the toss, although Mark Stoneman – captaining Middlesex with Toby Roland-Jones rested – and Sam Robson looked relatively untroubled as they added 20.
However, the bowlers found enough movement to beat the bat a number of times and Middlesex’s openers were soon on their way, Stoneman edging a Rushworth inswinger behind and Robson lbw to one that seared back at him from Hannon-Dalby.
Jack Davies survived a couple of close calls against Barnard, with one edge that fell just short of second slip and another whistling past his leg stump.
However, Craig Miles soon sent the left-hander’s off stump flying and, in the next over, Barnard accounted for Ryan Higgins in identical fashion.
When Barnard had John Simpson caught wafting outside off stump, the home side were 55 for five, but Josh de Caires – who punched Rushworth off the back foot for a rare boundary – and Joe Cracknell prevented further damage before lunch.
Barnard and Hannon-Dalby kept it tight after the interval, sending down 17 consecutive dot balls and Middlesex had extended their total by nine runs when the rain intervened.
That prevented play until 3.30pm and Cracknell promptly drilled Barnard’s first two balls after the restart to the off-side boundary – only for the Bears to reassert control with a further clutch of wickets.
Cracknell’s hour and three quarters at the crease came to an end as Rushworth trapped him leg before for a battling 28 and Hannon-Dalby then struck three times in two overs, ushering Murtagh to the middle.
The veteran bowler, who confirmed on Monday he would be calling time on his 23-year playing career, was given a guard of honour by the Warwickshire fielders as he walked out to share a last-wicket stand of 21 with De Caires.
Murtagh’s contribution was a tidy defensive shot to the one ball he faced, while his partner pumped Rushworth to the fence twice and pulled Hannon-Dalby into the grandstand for six before clipping him tamely into the hands of midwicket.
Warwickshire’s reply began with three consecutive wicket maidens – two of them chalked up by Murtagh, who struck with his second delivery as Rob Yates dragged on from outside off stump.
Murtagh also prised out Kraigg Brathwaite, with Simpson flinging himself to his right for a low one-handed catch to remove the West Indies captain, and then trapped Alex Davies in front as the visitors slumped to 25 for three.
Ethan Bamber pierced Dan Mousley’s defences to capture the fourth Warwickshire wicket, but Rhodes – despite a scare when he almost played on to Jayant Yadav – and Barnard saw them through to stumps.
Rhodes said: “It’s obviously not going to be a 400 plays 400 wicket, it’s nipping about a little bit and I think the cloud cover helps that, so it’s going to be a low-scoring game. Any lead we can get tomorrow would be fantastic and we’ll back our bowlers in any conditions.
“Middlesex want a result and need to win so that plays into our hands – that sort of quick game where we can halt their momentum and then pounce on them tomorrow.
“You want to play in these high-pressure games where there’s something on the line. Their attack don’t give you many bad balls and when they do, you’ve got to put them away.
“Rushy (Chris Rushworth) started the season on fire and Olly’s taken over that mantle in the second half of the season. They’ve obviously got a little bit of a competition getting to 50 wickets and that’ll be interesting.
“It’ll be hard to get the ball out of their hands this game and next, but you want people to chase personal milestones and those two have been fantastic all year.”
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