Report: Middlesex v Warwickshire Specsavers County Championship

Middlesex 452 & 304-6 dec

Warwickshire 468

Match drawn - Middlesex 12 pts, Warwickshire 11 pts

Day 4

Sam Robson added 106 to his first innings 231 as Warwickshire’s bowlers continued to suffer at Lord’s and the recent England Test opener broke a number of long-standing Middlesex records.

The last day of the Specsavers County Championship Division One match drifted predictably to a high-scoring draw, with Middlesex reaching 304 for 6 in their second innings, but it was still a memorable one for Robson, who played seven Tests in 2014 before being discarded by the England selectors.

Resuming on 35, in Middlesex’s overnight 76 for two, the 26-year-old right hander made it to 84 by lunch and, at the start of the afternoon session, scored the five more he required to go past the previous record for the number of first-class runs made in a match at Lord’s by a Middlesex batsman, the 319 set in 1893 by Andrew Stoddart.

"The last day of the Specsavers County Championship Division One match drifted predictably to a high-scoring draw."

Then, by completing his hundred, Robson equalled the match aggregate record by a Middlesex batsman in any first-class game, which was the 331 not out scored by Jack Robertson against Worcestershire at New Road in 1949.

When he was eventually stumped advancing to Jeetan Patel’s off spin, Robson had pushed his county’s new record match aggregate mark up to 337 runs. He also became the first Middlesex batsman to score a double-hundred and a hundred in the same first-class match.

Robson added 71 for the third wicket with Nick Compton, who was lbw to Rikki Clarke for 44 in the morning session, and then 105 for the fourth wicket with Adam Voges, who went on to make 92 and take advantage of some gentle late afternoon batting practice against Warwickshire’s occasional and non-bowlers.

Voges, however, fell to the penultimate ball of the match, skying Tim Ambrose to deep mid wicket. It was Ambrose’s maiden first-class wicket and Voges was trying to reach a hundred before stumps were drawn. Every Warwickshire player, including wicketkeeper Ambrose, had a bowl, with Ian Bell giving himself seven perfectly respectable overs of medium pace.

John Simpson fell for 13 at 222, when he was lbw to Patel propping forward, but James Franklin finished on 30 not out and stayed with Voges while another 82 were added for the sixth wicket.

Both teams, regarded as potential champions, will be happy enough with the draw points. Middlesex, who made 452 in their first innings, take 12 points overall and Warwickshire, who replied with 468, take 11 points.

Day 3

The fifth double-century of Jonathan Trott’s storied career – as well as a fine all-round display from Keith Barker - saw Warwickshire turn a position of weakness into a chance of victory going into the final day at Lord’s.

When Trott, who resumed on 62, lost Tim Ambrose – bowled – and Rikki Clarke, leg before to one that nipped back, both to Toby Roland-Jones, Warwickshire were still 130 shy of the follow-on target with four wickets in hand.

But they met a doughty foe in Trott who having changed his helmet in order to meet new ECB safety requirements, batted masterfully for the highest Championship score of his career. He was as strong as ever through midwicket, pulled anything a touch short and played some beautiful drives, typically through the covers, but also down the ground, too. His first hundred came in 158 balls and the second in 116, and scored 31 boundaries in all. There was elegance and efficiency to his play, and false strokes were seldom seen.

Warwickshire’s rebuild job began as Trott shared 143 with Barker, who grew into his innings as conditions for batting continued to improve. He swept Middlesex’s part-time spinners with surprising deftness and bunted drives off the seamers. Tim Murtagh trapped him in front with the new ball, but Trott, in the company of Jeetan Patel continued on his merry way, adding 65th for the eighth wicket, six of which came as Patel pounded Murtagh down the ground for six. In his quest to repair a shambolic over-rate, Middlesex had bowled too much part-time spin, and Warwickshire had happily profited.

"Nick Compton joined Middlesex’s own double centurion and looked in assured touch as they played for stumps. "

The return of James Harris yielded the wickets of Patel, caught at first slip, and Chris Wright bowled to give Middlesex a third bowling point. Not content with five batting points, Warwickshire charged on and eventually took the lead as Trott shared 67 with Oliver Hannon-Dalby, who eventually fell a ball after pulling Steven Finn - who had bowled a touch short and been expensive - for six. Trott, unbeaten on 219, had played a near-chanceless innings.

Trott and Hannon-Dalby’s brisk and lively partnership delayed the tea break and, upon the resumption, Barker quickly picked up Nick Gubbins, forced to play at a beautiful that delivery that arced away a touch, and Dawid Malan was also caught first slip soon after.

Nick Compton joined Middlesex’s own double centurion and looked in assured touch as they played for stumps. The lead, when they made it, having both cut and driven beautifully and left everything they could, stood at 60, and a fascinating final day – with all three results just about possible – lay in wait.

Day 2

Sam Robson made his highest first-class score and Steven Finn struck with his first ball on his return from injury as Middlesex’s fine start to the season continued against Warwickshire at Lord’s. Jonathan Trott led a Warwickshire fightback before bad light ended play 19 overs early at 5.25pm.

Finn, making his first competitive appearance since England’s third Test against South Africa in January – a calf injury kept him out of the World T20, got one to rise from a length and take the shoulder of Ian Westwood’s bat with his first ball, which Nick Compton caught at fourth slip. Despite bowling a touch short and going at four runs per over, Finn returned after tea and took the wicket of Sam Hain, who dragged on playing away from his body.

In conjunction with Finn, Tim Murtagh bowled a fine opening spell from the Pavilion End, and was rewarded for his consistent length with the wicket of Warwickshire captain Ian Bell, who only got half forward and was bowled by one that stayed slightly low.

"Trott looked fluent, weathering a barrage of short bowling from Finn and punishing anything on his legs and playing a pair of beautiful straight drives. "

Trott joined Varun Chopra and shared 77, with both batsmen passing 50, the former for the first time since July 2015. Chopra consecutively drove Finn through the covers for fours when he overpitched, then welcomed Toby Roland-Jones to the attack with a pair of pulled fours when he dropped too short. Eventually, in the first over after tea, however, Murtagh bowled him through the gate.

Trott looked fluent, weathering a barrage of short bowling from Finn and punishing anything on his legs and playing a pair of beautiful straight drives. His half-century arrived from 99 deliveries and, after losing Hain, made it to stumps – albeit still 306 runs adrift - in the company of Tim Ambrose.

Earlier, Robson picked up where he left off on Sunday, bringing up his third first-class double-century, the highest score of his career, and Middlesex’s highest ever score against Warwickshire. Having reached the last milestone, which had stood since Bill Edrich scored 225 at Edgbaston in 1947, by slapping Jeetan Patel over the offside for his first six, he was well caught by Ian Bell at deep mid-off for a marvellous 231.

In conditions favourable to Warwickshire’s nagging seamers, the hallmarks of Robson’s overnight 175 were all there: an obdurate defence and plenty of leaving backed up by strong cutting and driving. He brought up his double-century from his 311th delivery with a trademark flick to leg for two.

Middlesex were all out for 452 as they looked to push their score along. John Simpson, with whom Robson shared 107, brought up Middlesex’s fourth batting point with a fine pull, but eventually fell caught at the wicket as Rikki Clarke got one to nibble away. Clarke caught James Franklin well at second slip as the New Zealander played across the line to Oliver Hannon-Dalby, then after Robson fell, James Harris was leg before trying to sweep Patel.

The wicket of Murtagh, bowled when cutting Patel, saw the session extended and, after Finn smacked the off-spinner down the ground for six, Bell took another fine catch at deep mid-off to dismiss Roland-Jones and end the innings.

Day 1

A sublime, unbeaten century from Sam Robson saw Middlesex take control of their opening Specsavers County Championship match of the season. Warwickshire, on the other hand, did not enjoy the day captain Ian Bell had envisioned when, for the second successive Sunday, he invited the home team to bat without a toss.

Warwickshire, missing the injured Chris Woakes (knee) and Boyd Rankin (side) went wicketless in the first session as Robson and Nick Gubbins, who made a stylish 68, punished loose balls served up on a sluggish surface. Robson, who had reached his half-century before lunch, cut and drove beautifully and was particularly severe on anything on his legs, while Gubbins wristily punished Warwickshire in front and behind point.

Too often, however, Warwickshire played to the pair’s strengths, and Bell certainly would not have planned for Jeetan Patel to bowl five overs before lunch, or been using Jonathan Trott’s medium pacers, either.

"Anything remotely short was cut behind square for four – whether Bell posted a man to prevent the shot or not."

After lunch, the pitch appeared to quicken and Keith Barker troubled Gubbins, who despite reaching a fine half-century from 102 balls, was drawn into a wild waft at Chris Wright and the thick edge was well taken by Rikki Clarke at second slip. Nick Compton lasted just one ball, pushing hard off the back foot and being brilliantly taken by Sam Hain, diving to his left-foot at backward point.

By this stage, however, Robson had reached his first hundred since May 2015. He reached the milestone in 158 balls, including 16 fours, many through point. Anything remotely short was cut behind square for four – whether Bell posted a man to prevent the shot or not – and his organised defence meant he did not play at anything he did not need to. By the close, he had 175 fluent, attractive, unbeaten runs. Perhaps, with plenty of spots up for grabs in England’s batting line-up, Robson – who played seven Tests in the summer of 2014 – could yet stake a claim for a recall.

Robson had lost Dawid Malan, who left a delivery from Barker that took out his off stump, and Adam Voges, who was through his shot too early and played on to the same bowler, either side of the new ball, but put on a highly entertaining 54 in 13 overs with John Simpson as the shadows lengthened. Simpson rocked back and pulled Chris Wright into the Mound Stand to bring up Middlesex’s third batting point on what was emphatically Robson’s day.

Brian Halford

Brian is Warwickshire's Club Journalist and has reported on the Bears since 2000.