Lancashire were frustrated by some middle order resistance led by Middlesex's sixth-wicket pair Neil Dexter and Gareth Berg during today's opening day of their penultimate County Championship match of 2012 at Lord's.
The Red Rose made the ideal start as captain Glen Chapple backed up his own decision to bowl first upon winning the toss by striking in each of his first two overs to leave the hosts in trouble at 4-2.
Ajmal Shahzad, back in the side in place of Gary Keedy, also struck to make it 39-3 in the 12th over of the day as the bowlers enjoyed help via movement through the air and off the pitch with the new ball.
But, following opener Sam Robson’s 49, former skipper Dexter underpinned the fightback to take the score to 239-5 at tea before posting his second century of the season off 183 balls during the evening session.
Middlesex closed the day on 389-6 from 96 overs, with Dexter unbeaten on 123 off 242 balls. He will resume tomorrow morning with Steven Crook on 41 not out.
“When they were 39-3, we were right in it after we bowled first with a bit of green in the pitch,” said Chapple. “But that was one of the toughest days this season in the end.
“The pitch did look like it would flatten out towards the middle of the day, which it did. We won the toss, bowled and got it in good areas. We were happy at lunch. But we failed to push home our early advantage, and we ended up chasing leather.
“The second session went their way, and obviously the third was very difficult too with our bowlers tiring and the pitch getting slower.”
Robson and Dexter shared 63 for the fourth wicket during the latter half of the morning session, with Simon Kerrigan trapping the former lbw on the cusp of lunch.
Dexter and wicketkeeper Jon Simpson then added 62 for the fifth before Dexter and Berg set about the day’s key partnership either side of tea as the ball got softer and conditions easier for batting.
They put on 148 inside 37 overs to advance the score from 164-5, with the alliance a record for that particular wicket for Middlesex in matches against Lancashire.
Berg was out caught behind by Gareth Cross as he aimed a pull at Kyle Hogg in the 79th over, leaving the score at 312-6, before Dexter reached a dogged hundred including 14 boundaries moments later.
It proved to be the third catch of the day for Cross. The previous two had come during the morning and afternoon sessions to help his side move into a healthy state with the hosts on 164-5 in the 43rd over.
Both were strangles down the legside as well, with the first coming in the third over of the day when Joe Denly flicked at a Chapple delivery. He later helped Hogg remove Simpson in identical fashion.
Lancashire raced out of the blocks, helped by Australian Chris Rogers falling lbw for a five-ball duck to Chapple, leaving the score at 0-1.
After Denly departed, Shahzad sent Dawid Malan’s off-stump cartwheeling as the left-hander offered no stroke before Robson fell to Kerrigan’s sixth ball in the 28th over as the hosts fell to 102-4. Like Chapple, Kerrigan also started with a wicket maiden.
Lancashire took the second new ball immediately when it became available at 80 overs, but Dexter and Crook batted with more intent than anybody else had done earlier in the day to take their side to the verge of 400 with an unbroken stand of 77 in 17 overs.
The Red Rose will have 14 overs in the morning to claim a third bowling bonus point.
Article (c) Lancashire CCC Ltd
Photo (c) Steven Pond/EMPICS Sport