Shah makes early impression but Essex stumble
Middlesex 385 v Essex 235 for 7
Owais Shah failed by just four runs to mark his first-class debut for Essex with a century in the County Championship clash against Middlesex out at Chelmsford.
Playing against his former county, Shah was denied a deserved 100 when Corey Collymore had him caught behind. The West Indian fast bowler also struck again shortly afterwards to remove Graham Napier as Essex closed on 235 for 7 in reply to their opponent's 385 all out.
Shah always seemed to have more time to play his strokes than his colleagues in an innings that brought him 14 fours and a pulled six over midwicket at the expense of Anthony Ireland. Shah's only blemish before he was dismissed came when he had made 77 when he hooked Ireland to fine leg where Collymore failed to hold on to a difficult chance as he dived forward.
Tim Murtagh and Gareth Berg were responsible for putting Essex on the back foot as they shared the first five wickets to four. Murtagh extracted enough life from the pitch to get rid of openers Jaik Mickleburgh and Mark Pettini before the 50 was raised and soon afterwards Bergh got rid of Ravi Bopara.
He had just a single to his name when he guided a simple catch to Sam Robson in the slips. Berg then trapped Mat Walker lbw for only six before Adam Wheater produced several punishing strokes on the onside in an innings of 39 before the return of Murtagh ended a partnership of 65 in 21 overs.
That dismissal paved the way for James Foster to take part in another half-century stand before Collymore returned to tip the balance firmly in Middlesex's favour. After he had Shah caught behind by John Simpson, he removed Napier leg before in his next over. It all left Essex going into the final day still 150 runs adrift and their hopes mainly resting on Foster who will resume on 44.
Murtagh has so far taken 3 for 61 in 19 overs, while Berg and Collymore have figures of 2 for 40 and 2 for 47 respectively.
Earlier in the day, Middlesex added a further 69 after resuming on 316 for 6. Opener Robson added just 10 more to his overnight 136 before 17-year-old Reece Topley trapped him lbw. Robson's innings spanned just under seven hours during which he faced 317 deliveries and struck 15 fours.
The young paceman also picked up the wicket of Berg but it was Napier, thanks to his deeds on the opening day, who returned the best figures as his 5 for 56 represented his first five wicket-haul for three years.