Recent Match Report – Middlesex vs Warwickshire 2023

Middlesex 121 and 96 for 1 (Robson 51*) trail Warwickshire 315 (Rhodes 102, Briggs 99, Murtagh 6-83) by 98 runs

There were four seasons in one day at Lord’s on Thursday, and a send-off to their man for all seasons too, as the soon-to-be-retired Tim Murtagh was celebrated in front of the pavilion during the lunch-break, having been the main source of his team’s current haul of three points in this contest with first-innings figures of 6 for 83.

But by the end of a day marked by grey clouds, gleaming sunshine, biblical downpours and improbable batting competence from the home team, the season that mattered was the one that could yet be saved. At 96 for 1 at stumps, with Sam Robson ensconced on 51 not out and with a daunting 194-run deficit halved, Middlesex had pushed themselves into a position from which they ought (ought!) not to lose. And, with Kent struggling to make any headway down in Taunton, a draw would suffice to take their fight for survival down to the wire at Trent Bridge next week.

Of course, there’s still time for a reversion to type – and after tumbling to 121 all out on the first morning, no-one with Middlesex’s best interests at heart will be getting ahead of themselves just yet. But, after Warwickshire’s first innings had been wrapped up for 315 – courtesy of Will Rhodes’ first century of the campaign and an agonising 99 for Danny Briggs – Middlesex exuded a confidence with the bat that belied the match situation, let alone their habitually wobbly displays.

Robson set the tone with the first ball of their second innings, punching Oliver Hannon-Dalby’s loosener on the up through point for four, to hint at a surface that had lost some of its spice from the opening day. Chris Rushworth then dropped short in his own first over and was hacked away through point as well, and when Mark Stoneman joined the fray with a brace of compact off-side boundaries – the first a firm drive, the second a controlled edge – the pair were well on their way to their highest opening stand of the season, and only their third in excess of fifty all year.

At 52 for 0, a downpour interrupted their progress – and quite the deluge it was too: an hour-long onslaught that, had this been, say, Headingley, would almost certainly have left bogging great damp patches in awkward corners of the outfield, and caused the day’s eventual abandonment after hours of interminable inspections.

For two decades now, of course, Lord’s has laughed in the face of such local inconveniences – their £1.25 million decision to install state-of-the-art drainage back in 2002 has repaid itself umpteen times over in non-refunded tickets over the years – and sure enough, once the clouds had rolled past, the resumption was inevitable.

Robson and Stoneman duly added a further 26 to their stand, briefly batting with a fluency that no Middlesex pairing has match all season – particularly when Robson leaned on a length ball from Ed Barnard to ping him clean down the ground for four. But, after a lengthy delay for repairs to the bowler’s footholes, Stoneman suffered a crucial loss of concentration. Craig Miles served up a length ball with some extra kick from round the wicket, and Michael Burgess grabbed the inside-edge to prise a hard-worked first opening.

Contrary to rumours that Ethan Bamber had been lined up to bat at No. 3, in an (afternoon?)-hawk-style gambit, Jack Davies duly emerged in his ordained position, and nudged Miles down through deep third for his solitary boundary, moments before bad light closed in to further truncate the day’s play. Robson, by this stage, had cracked his eighth four through point to reach an 88-ball fifty. As the only Middlesex man to reach a hundred this season, he’s well placed to double that tally as part of their fourth-day survival fight.

Warwickshire had resumed in the morning with an ominous lead of 107, and with Rhodes and Briggs well established in their 133-run seventh-wicket stand. Rhodes duly picked off his century with a firm clip for four through square leg off Murtagh, before a change of bowling at the Nursery End once again prised an opening. For the second time in the innings, Bamber replaced Murtagh and struck with his first ball, as Rhodes slashed at a hint of width and picked out Robson in the gully.

Miles emerged with determination as Briggs closed in on what was looking ever more likely to be a maiden Championship hundred, and only his second in first-class cricket since facing South Africa A in 2017 back in his Sussex days. The fates seemed to be with him when he survived a freakish chance on 84, as he under-edged a sweep onto his back leg and through to the keeper off Josh De Caires, but umpire Graham Lloyd mistakenly believed the ball had rebounded off the turf.

But when Miles lost concentration with a hack through the line to give Murtagh his sixth, Briggs tightened up with dire consequences as his milestone approached. On 99, he aimed a non-committal clip off his hip as Tom Helm banged the ball into short, and Briggs was already rushing towards the pavilion – in vain hope of a 100th run but also in full anticipation of a long and disconsolate walk – as John Simpson jogged around to gather a steepling edge.

Hannon-Dalby soon departed in similar fashion to give Helm his second, and with a hefty lead, Warwickshire seemed primed for the kill. Middlesex, however, have decided they will be dying another day.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket

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