Middlesex denied chance to build lead
Middlesex 385 and 39 for 1 v Essex 291
Only 31.5 overs were possible between stoppages for rain on the third day of Essex's County Championship match against Middlesex at Chelmsford.
That was long enough, though, for the visitors to establish a first-innings lead of 94 after bowling out the hosts for 291 and by the close they had added a further 39 for the loss of Sam Robson.
Essex had resumed on 235 for 7 and the first two wickets were picked up by fast bowler Tim Murtagh, to signal his first five-wicket haul of the season. First he produced a delivery that nipped back to trap Essex captain James Foster lbw without offering a stroke, but not before the batsman had advanced from 44 to 58 to register his fourth half-century of the summer.
Foster's fine effort contained six boundaries and his dismissal effectively ended Essex's hopes of getting within touching distance of Middlesex's 385 total. David Masters provided Murtagh with his second success. He stayed long enough to find the boundary with his only scoring stroke before putting up an easy catch to Dawid Malan at short extra cover.
Tim Phillips produced a few aggressive strokes with Reece Topley as his partner but was unable to take Essex to a third batting point. They were still nine short when Anthony Ireland removed Phillips for 28 as wicketkeeper John Simpson claimed his third catch of the innings. Murtagh finished with figures of 5 for 82 as Middlesex established their useful advantage.
When they went in again they had moved to 34 when medium paceman Ravi Bopara struck in his opening over by bowling Robson, a century-maker in the first innings, with a ball kept low.
But Chris Rogers had moved to 32, containing six fours, as he and Ireland reached the close without further mishap. It was announced during the day that 17-year-old Topley had signed a one-year contract for Essex. Although still at school, this is his fourth Championship outing of the season and so far he has taken 16 wickets.