Gripping second day but Middlesex remain on top in Championship encounter
Middlesex remain in charge of this Specsavers County Championship match following a gripping second day that saw 12 wickets fall as the fortunes of both teams swung one way and then another.
Lancashire’s bowlers enjoyed a much better second day after taking just three wickets yesterday to bowl Middlesex out for 327 on the stroke of lunch with 7 wickets falling for 69 runs during the morning session.
But Championship title chasing Middlesex hit back strongly to have Lancashire reeling on 8-4, and then 32-5, before young batsmen Rob Jones and Liam Livingstone launched a great afternoon fightback.
Lancashire, 102-5, still have a lot to do trailing by 225 runs at the close of play.
Kyle Jarvis and Tom Bailey started the day well with 3 wickets for 10 runs in 39 balls to reduce Middlesex to 272-6 by the 99th over.
Bailey struck in the third over when Dawid Malan inside edged an indeterminate shot off the back foot onto his stumps after making 53. Steve Eskinazi failed to add to his overnight score of 4 runs before he inside edged a Jarvis delivery that nipped back onto his leg stump.
Lancashire then claimed a second bowling point when John Simpson edged a drive off Bailey to Steven Croft at second slip.
Simon Kerrigan finished the job with three wickets to finish with figures of 4-80, Ollie Rayner edging the left arm spinner’s first delivery of the day to Livingstone at slip for 6 and bowling both Toby Roland-Jones for 17 and Steven Finn for 2.
Inbetween Croft picked up the wicket of Tim Murtagh courtesy of a great one-handed diving catch by Rob Jones at short leg although the late wickets came after the 110 over bonus point cut-off at which point the visitors were 302-7 to give Lancashire 2 bowling points and Middlesex 3 batting points.
The Lancashire innings started disastrously with four wickets falling inside the first eight overs.
Haseeb Hameed went for 0 for only the second time in his career, fending a good delivery from Roland-Jones to Rayner at second slip and Luke Procter drove loosely to give a catch to Eskinazi at gully off Murtagh after scoring 1.
Two wickets in one over by Roland-Jones then reduced Lancashire to 8-4; Alviro Petersen given out caught down the leg side by wicketkeeper Simpson and two balls later Croft was bowled by a good yorker.
Jos Buttler threatened to fashion a quick revival, hitting Murtagh for three boundaries in one over, but after reaching 16 off 15 balls the new England stand-in ODI captain was brilliantly caught off a leg glance by Simpson diving away to his left to give Roland-Jones a fourth wicket in 29 balls and leave Lancashire in deep trouble on 32-5.
Rob Jones, opening once again in just his third game, played with great determination and also produced some nice shots accompanied by Liam Livingstone who drove Finn beautifully for four to long on just before the first of several stoppages arrived at 2.50pm with Lancashire on 57-5 after 21 overs.
Tea was taken at that point and when play resumed 30 minutes later variable light conditions forced Middlesex to switch between quick and slow bowlers depending on the light meter readings taken by the umpires.
In the circumstances it was an outstanding effort of concentration by Jones and Livingstone who battled their way through the next 75 minutes before rain halted play once again.
Jones brought up the 50 partnership off 81 balls for the 6th wicket with a lovely straight drive off Finn, the 20 year-old going on to improve on his highest score with an unbeaten 42 while Livingstone was 31 not out with Lancashire 102-5.
Rain, plus thunder and lightning forced the players off at 4.30pm and although the rain abated the light failed to improve with play finally abandoned for the day at 5.30pm with a total of 28 overs lost.
Simon Kerrigan was pleased with the fightback today.
“We were disappointed about how we bowled yesterday after winning the toss and bowling because we felt the pitch would have a bit in it. So we showed great fight this morning. Jarv and Bails bowled really well, built great pressure, and got the early wickets that gave us another bonus point. I was pleased to get a few wickets at the end.“
“Yesterday I thought we bowled pretty well for the first hour, and then we let it slip. The pressure we had built up was released and the rest of us didn’t bowl well at all, apart from just before the new ball was taken. We were pretty disappointed.”
It was a different story today, and Kerrigan was naturally delighted to get a wicket with his first ball, finishing with 4-80.
“I was pretty happy with that after yesterday,” he said. “I felt I had let the side down, so I was delighted when I came on and got a wicket with my first ball, and a couple more wickets as well after that.
Kerrigan, who this week signed a two-year contract extension, now has 298 first-class wickets and grinned when it was mentioned to him.
“I had a quick check to see what I had snuck up to,” he confessed. “So there’s a couple more to go!”
Kerrigan was full of praise for Rob Jones and Liam Livingstone who led a fightback after the loss of early wickets.
“It was great fight shown by those two in tricky conditions against a newish ball and the light wasn’t great,” he said.
“Credit to Middlesex, they bowled really well. They bowled at the top of off stump for a prolonged period of time and got their rewards, plus a couple down the leg side. But you deserve your luck at times.
Looking ahead to the remainder of the game he added: “We thought the pitch might have a bit in it yesterday, and with pretty warm conditions forecast we felt it would dry out and get a bit harder.
“But we saw a couple this evening keep a bit low so it might flatten out a bit but at some point I think it might go a bit more up and down.
The follow-on is 76 runs away and achieving that target will put Lancashire in a much healthier position, with Kerrigan adding: “It all comes from the fight that Liam and Jonesy showed.
“We got to take the loss of the five wickets out of our heads and scrap for every run tomorrow, something we’ve done this year down the order. We’ve got to keep believing.”
Photo (c) Simon Pendrigh