Report: Middlesex v Warwickshire, Specsavers County Championship 2017

Day 3

In a remarkable end to a dramatic match, Warwickshire skittled Middlesex for 136 at Lord’s to claim their first win of the season in the Specsavers County Championship’s Division One by a thumping 190-run margin.

Chris Woakes, completing a successful comeback from a two-month injury lay-off, took 3 for 38 as he and Keith Barker, who snapped up the first three wickets to fall and finished with 3 for 21, left the Middlesex second innings in ruins.

And all this, on a humiliating day for the champions, after Barker and Chris Wright had earlier taken their unlikely ninth wicket partnership to 97 as Warwickshire, who resumed on 293 for 8, reached 361 in their own second innings to set Middlesex 327 to win on a pitch which had seemingly flattened out following the opening day carnage of 20 wickets.

Middlesex, it is true, were hampered by injuries to openers Nick Gubbins and Sam Robson – Gubbins was forced to come in at No 8 after tearing a hamstring in the field – but the way both their batting and bowling fell away in this game will be of great concern to them.

Warwickshire, meanwhile, though they may well remain bottom of Division One when this round of matches is done, are now only 31 points behind Middlesex – who began this game in fifth place – with five matches remaining for both counties in this summer’s campaign.

Barker ended up on 62 not out from 109 balls, with eight fours, after resuming on 30 and his stand with Wright, who made an 83-ball 41 before being caught behind off Steven Finn, flourished in a morning session in which the Middlesex bowlers huffed and puffed to little effect.

Leg spinner Nathan Sowter then earned himself a maiden first-class wicket by bowling last man Ryan Sidebottom for 1, but by then the damage done was not just to Middlesex’s morale. Gubbins, in attempting to take a sprawling catch off a top edged Barker hook as he ran in from long leg, hurt himself so badly that he had to be helped from the field by Middlesex’s medical staff.

Gubbins was unable to open, meaning Nick Compton was promoted to partner Robson, who used Sowter as a runner as he made 19 despite a leg injury before being first out.

Middlesex were 20 without loss at lunch but that proved only to be the calm before the storm. The headlong collapse began at the start of the second over after the interval with Robson pinned leg-before by Barker who then, later in the same over, had Stevie Eskinazi taken at second slip for 2.

Left-armer Barker struck again in his next over, this time going around the wicket to surprise Compton with a nasty lifter that he touched to keeper Tim Ambrose to go for 3.

And 28 for 3 became 28 for 4 when Woakes nipped one off the seam to have John Simpson leg-before for 4. Ryan Higgins, after one extra cover driven four, was also leg-before to Woakes for 5 in the England all-rounder’s next over, and the same bowler soon breached James Franklin’s defences to bowl the Middlesex captain for 1.

From 45 for 6 there were a few defiant blows from Sowter, who had been joined by Gubbins and runner on Franklin’s dismissal, before his 37 ended when he turned the first ball of Sidebottom’s second over straight into the hands of short leg.

Middlesex’s tail was cleaned up by off spinner Jeetan Patel and right-arm seamer Sidebottom, who added 2 for 41 to his first innings’ 4 for 29 and completed a memorable championship debut by winning an leg-before appeal against Gubbins on 15 to finish the match. Patel had Tom Helm taken at first slip for 15 and bowled Tim Murtagh for 0 to give himself figures of 2 for 19.

A last wicket frolic by No 11 Finn and the injured Gubbins, who added a quickfire 48 with Finn playing some superb shots in his unbeaten 31, provided scant consolation for Middlesex, who for much of the first two days were clear favourites to win this game.

For Warwickshire, bowled out for just 126 at the start of the match, this was a significant victory – especially as they had lost five of their previous eight games. Bowling out Middlesex for 161 on a helter-skelter opening day kept them in the contest, and then a gritty second innings batting effort on day two took the sting out of Middlesex’s seam attack.

When day three dawned, however, with their lead a seemingly middling 258 on an easing pitch, they could not have dreamed of winning so decisively or so quickly. It is a result which could yet have ramifications for the ultimate destiny of both sides this season.

Day 2

Matt Lamb, in just his third first-class match, hit a gritty 71 as Warwickshire fought back in determined style against champions Middlesex at Lord’s.

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 which has breathed new life into a low-scoring contest.

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

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.

Middlesex’s pace attack, so hostile on the first morning, did not pose the same threat and both 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 for 1 to 109 for 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 for 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 for 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. 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 for 6 and, in the fourth and fifth overs with it, Lamb edged Helm behind and Jeetan Patel was bowled for 0 aiming an ugly swipe at Murtagh.

Keith Barker, though, found a willing partner in No 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.

Day 1

James Franklin and Ryan Higgins added 93 in 19 overs for the seventh wicket to shade the honours for Middlesex against Warwickshire which fought back strongly on a helter-skelter day of championship cricket 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 for 6 to 161 all out after they had earlier bowled out Warwickshire for 126.

In four overs’ batting before stumps, Warwickshire's openers Umeed and Sibley 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 for 53 in Warwickshire’s first innings and, with Tim Murtagh (3 for 20) and Tom Helm (2 for 42) equally impressive, putting Middlesex seemingly in command.

But Warwickshire 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 for 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. 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-ups 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 signed on Friday from Birmingham & District League champions Berkswell and who took 8 for 33 for Warwickshire Second XI, against Northants seconds, two weeks ago. Here, he finished with 4 for 29 after castling Middlesex tailenders Helm (2) and Murtagh (4).

In his first spell, Sidebottom had John Simpson leg-before for 2 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 7 after setting off for a risky single and being sent back by Compton.

Finn’s superb post-lunch spell of 3 for 33 hastened Warwickshire’s earlier slide – with Tim Ambrose and Keith Barker caught behind for 4 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 1 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 for 5 with Higgins bowling Lamb for 3 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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