By Mark Kidger (@MarkFROMMadrid)
Even though rain cut a swathe through Day 1 of the Division 2 fixtures, the bowlers made up for lost time today. For a time, it looked as if the Middlesex v Northants game could even finish today and Kent v Gloucestershire might well have done had another forty overs not been lost. Only Edgbaston has seen something close to cricket sanity. It is early days, but Middlesex and Warwickshire are making big statements already in the race for promotion.
Kent 64 (18.5 overs)
Gloucestershire 110-8 (38 overs)
Another 40 overs lost today, with a substantial delay before the outfield was fit for play and bad light later but, in the time that was available, there was mayhem. Suffice it to say that Gloucestershire’s score represents a substantial recovery and that, at one point, Kent’s 64ao looked likely to earn them a small lead.
Gloucestershire’s Australian quick Worral and Matt Taylor – one of the quickest bowlers in the County game – combined to reduce Kent to 29-6 before Craig Miles, who had a very poor 2017, and new signing from Middlesex, Ryan Higgins, combined to apply the coup de gras. 2-20 for Worrall, 4-20 for Taylor, 3-11 for Miles and 1-9 for Higgins (who was probably a bit surprised even to see the ball). However, Gloucestershire’s start was no better. There were six LBWs in the Gloucestershire innings, including all the top five.
Gloucestershire were indebted to Gareth Roderick, the experimental #3, who made an excellent 50 when no other batsman has passed 18. He received some sensible support from Noema-Barnett, adding 42. Gloucestershire lead by 46 and will hope that the last two wickets can extend that to 60+.
If you plan to attend tomorrow, get to the ground quickly. This game may not get much past Lunch.
Middlesex 214 and 159 (38.3 overs)
Northants 71 and 9-0 (2 overs)
This is another game that may not extend past Lunch tomorrow. Those who came to Lord’s to enjoy some nice sunshine and almost warm temperatures had the rare and unusual treat of watching all four innings in one day. Middlesex started the day on 136-4 and should not have been allowed to get anywhere near 200 and a batting point. Northants dropped three catches, two of them simple, the third only slightly harder and missed a straightforward run-out. Having got rid of the two overnight batsmen quickly and bowled a much better line and length, getting prodigious movement in the air and off the pitch, the bowlers were let down by their fielders. Middlesex were indebted to their own bowlers as Harris made a fine 46* - deserving a 50 – harking back to his glorious all-round season in 2015 in which his runs were often as valuable as his wickets, with sensible support for a time from Toby Roland-Jones.
When Northamptonshire batted, they received an object lesson in what could have happened if they had used the conditions better on the first day. Murtagh and Roland-Jones knocked over the top three in just 16 deliveries, before James Harris ran through the rest of the order: 5.2-4-9-5 are figures that he will not beat too often in his career.
Despite the early loss of Sam Robson, Middlesex reached 54-1 and seemed to be batting Northants out of the game when they suffered one of the collapses that have so often made their fans despair. 54-1 became 57-5 and a chink of light for Northants. However, yet another catch went down and Harris, Roland-Jones, Helm and, especially, Tim Murtagh – the Lambeth Lara – held up Northants. The 47 added for the last wicket pushed the target past 300 and out of all reach.
Northants survived the last two overs of the day without loss, meaning that only 26 wickets fell in the day, but no one would bet on them lasting long on the ‘morrow.
Warwickshire 284-9 (83 overs)
A number of View from the Outfield pundits have Sussex as the promotion party poopers for Middlesex and Warwickshire. Today they had a chance to make a big statement and must be wonder what might have been. Wickets fell in bunches and 147-6 and 222-9 the weaken Sussex attack must have felt highly satisfied with its efforts. Warwickshire are indebted to two England discards – Ian Bell and Tim Ambrose – who made classy 70s, for the fact that Sussex are looking at which could be a match-winning total and, quite possibly, 3 invaluable batting points.
So far Tim Ambrose and Chris Wright have added 62 for the tenth wicket and, with overs not an issue for bonus points, they will have their sights on 300 and the third batting point before getting into the Sussex batting. With more time lost today, it will need a lot of wickets to fall on Sunday to get a result, but don’t bet against it happening.
South African medium-pacer David Wiese has been the pick of the bowlers with 4-50 so far, but Sussex will feel that they have missed an opportunity and should have been batting long before the Close having limited Warwickshire to no more than 200.
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