Championship Report: Warwickshire at Middlesex
Day Three – Close
Middlesex beat Division Two leaders Warwickshire by 18 runs in a thriller at Lord’s.
James Fuller claimed three wickets in two spells after tea, sealing victory with a Yorker which squeezed under the bat of Chris Wright.
It ended a heroic last-wicket stand of 22 between Wright and Ryan Sidebottom, so denying Warwickshire a sixth win of the campaign.
They remain top, but with a lead cut to seven points, while victory for Dawid Malan’s means they hang on to the coat-tails of the leading five.
Middlesex began the day 183-6, just 143 ahead and needing their tail to wag as it had done first innings.
Wicketkeeper John Simpson (33) began positively, striking five boundaries and though he lost Ollie Rayner to a fine slip catch by Jonathan Trott off the bowling of Chris Woakes, for a while the hosts stood firm.
However, Simpson was becalmed and eventually undone by a Jeetan Patel delivery which turned a fraction and bowled him off-stump. It gave the stalwart spinner a return of 5-56 – reward for his wizardry.
Fuller paid for his hesitation when he was run out by Woakes’s throw from mid-on without troubling the scorers and Tim Murtagh was last out, also for nought, bowled by Oliver Hannon-Dalby.
Warwickshire, needing 203 were left with an awkward 15 minutes before lunch, in which time Murtagh struck twice. The warhorse of the home attack first produced a peach off an out-swinger to remove Dominic Sibley caught at slip by Ollie Rayner for nought.
Two balls later came the prize wicket of Ian Bell courtesy of one which went the other way and bowled him through the gate to leave Warwickshire 10-2, their lunch a little less digestible.
On the resumption, Murtagh’s new-ball partner Harris (2-55) took up the quest for wickets, bowling first-innings centurion Will Rhodes with one which kept a fraction low.
Trott remained batting with composure until a brilliant tactical change brought about his downfall. Simpson stood up to the stumps to keep the veteran in his crease whereupon Murtagh produced a full ball to snare him right in front.
Woakes didn’t stay long, pinned LBW by Rayner, meaning Warwickshire were in trouble at 64-5.
But in another twist Sam Hain (37) and Tim Ambrose swung things back towards the men from the midlands with an increasingly assured stand of 44.
Harris ended Hain’s resistance when another LBW shout was upheld, but Ambrose (41), so often the scourge of Middlesex, steered his side to tea without further loss, by which time only 61 were needed.
The hosts needed someone to rid them of the dangerman and Fuller stepped up in the first over after the restart, finding an edge which flew to Rayner’s safe hands at slip.
And when Murtagh (4-54), unusually for him, now bowling from the Pavilion End trapped Patel in front Middlesex were favourites.
Fuller then struck again when Hannon-Dalby nicked through to Simpson with 41 still needed.
Amid unbelievable tension, last pair Wright and Sidebottom inched towards the target in singles.
Thirty-five became 30 and then 20, Wright surviving a shy at the stumps which would have seen him short of his ground.
Balls whistled past the edge too, but just when it seemed Warwickshire might sneak home after all Fuller had the last say.
Day Two – Stumps
Warwickshire skipper Jeetan Patel bowled his side back into control against Middlesex with a late four-wicket burst on day two of their Specsavers County Championship clash at Lord’s.
Patel, who ended the day with figures of 4-38, initiated a Middlesex middle-order collapse as four wickets went down for 27 runs to leave the home side just 143 ahead at the close.
Middlesex had earlier restricted the Bears to a first-innings lead of just 40 after bowling them out for 276, despite a career-best 118 from opener Will Rhodes.
Stevie Eskinazi’s 73 in Middlesex’s second innings appeared to have earned them parity – but Patel’s efforts ensured that the Division Two leaders will go into the third day as strong favourites.
Resuming 84 behind at 152-4, Warwickshire soon lost night-watchman Chris Wright, who was caught behind off James Harris for 14.
Chris Woakes, making his first red-ball appearance of the season, faced just eight balls before he also fell victim to Harris, attempting to glide one down the leg side.
Tim Murtagh, Ollie Rayner and James Fuller all picked up a wicket apiece, but Rhodes continued to thwart them as he progressed to three figures for the second time this season.
With last man Ryan Sidebottom at the other end, Rhodes adopted a more aggressive approach and hit Harris for four consecutive boundaries, including two paddle shots.
He eventually took another swing at the Middlesex bowler, who managed to hold an awkward top-edged catch to finish with figures of 4-84.
That earned the visitors a 40-run advantage, which still held when they made the breakthrough in Middlesex’s second innings – an almost exact repeat of Paul Stirling’s performance first time around.
The Ireland international began briskly again, hitting 16 all in boundaries before falling to a slip catch – this time providing Woakes with his first wicket of the game.
With Oliver Hannon-Dalby again obtaining plenty of swing from the Nursery End and the sky starting to cloud over, Eskinazi and Nick Gubbins found themselves under pressure.
But the Middlesex pair went for their shots and put together a century partnership that ended when Gubbins (47) was unlucky to be given out lbw to a Patel delivery that appeared to be missing leg stump.
Eskinazi, who reached his third half-century of the season with a boundary off Woakes past third man, seemed well set as he steered the Middlesex total past 150.
However, he was Patel’s second victim, pushing to short leg – and Eoin Morgan, having scratched around for three from 25 balls, became the spinner’s third when he was trapped in front of the stumps.
Middlesex’s situation worsened when Max Holden (8) drove Patel into the hands of mid-off and Hannon-Dalby flattened the wicket of Dawid Malan (28) with the first ball of the next over to leave them 183-6 at the close.
Day One – Stumps
Will Rhodes’ unbeaten half-century gave Division Two leaders Warwickshire the edge on the first day of of their clash with Middlesex at Lord’s.
The Nottingham-born left-hander made the most of being dropped on seven to pass 50 for the fourth time this season in the red-ball game.
His efforts steered the visitors to 152-4 after they had dismissed the hosts for 236.
Warwickshire opted to toss, but were left happy to have lost it after their change bowlers wreaked havoc in the morning session.
The host’s decision to promote Paul Stirling to opener backfired when after four early boundaries the Irish international edged the last ball of Chris Wright’s opening over to Ian Bell at slip.
Nick Gubbins though took heavy toll of some loose new-ball bowling with Chris Woakes, in his first County Championship game of the season, struggling for rhythm as the 50 came up inside 10 overs.
The introduction of the recalled Oliver Hannon-Dalby however induced a dramatic collapse. The 29-year-old found prodigious swing, bowling Gubbins with a Yorker which ripped out his leg-stump.
Stevie Eskinazi edged Wright loosely to slip in the following over and when another boomerang deliver from Hannon-Dalby flattened Eoin Morgan’s off-stump Middlesex were 60-4.
Worse followed when second change Ryan Sidebottom (3-34) found the edge of Dawid Malan’s bat. It would the first of three wickets in 10 balls for the Australian-born quick who had first John Simpson and then James harris caught behind, reducing the Seaxes to 76-7.
Middlesex would have been out of the game altogether but for a counter-attacking stand of 86 either side of lunch by Max Holden and James Fuller.
The latter, two days on from his white-ball six-fer in T20 played belligerently from the off, striking Woakes for a huge six over mid-wicket en route to a 60-ball half-century, his first in the Championship for more than two years.
Holden provided staunch support with some elegant drives, just missing out on a half-century when Jeetan Patel turned one a fraction to trap him LBW for 48.
Ollie Rayner also proved a valuable ally for Fuller in a ninth-wicket stand of 51, before Wright (3-48) returned to have him caught behind by Ambrose for 28.
By the time Fuller missed a full toss from the impressive Hannon-Dalby (3-41) to be last out for 71, Middlesex had at least reached respectability.
Buoyed by their tail having wagged Middlesex began well with the ball, Harris pinning Dominic Sibley LBW for 14 having had an equally vociferous shout turned down the ball before.
Tim Murtagh, who’d probed away in his usual nagging fashion then trapped Ian Bell in front to leave The Bears 29-2.
However, a chance to seize the initiative was missed when Malan dropped Rhodes at third slip off Harris.
Reprieved, Rhodes settled down and he and Jonathan Trott took charge in a stand of 85 and such was their control it was a shock when the former England man fell three short of a deserved half-century sweeping at Rayner.
Sam Hain’s batting struggles continued when he fell to Murtagh becoming the fourth LBW victim of the innings.
However, with Rhodes standing firm Warwickshire hold a narrow advantage heading into day two.