23 wickets tumble on first day at Lord's
Kent 87 and 46 for 3 v Middlesex 153
Tim Murtagh and Azhar Mahmood led the way with six-wicket hauls as bowlers dominated a remarkable opening day of Middlesex's Second Division clash with Kent at Lord's. Twenty three wickets fell in all as Middlesex replied with 153 after initially putting Kent in to bat on a green pitch and skittling them out for just 87.
Then, in a final hour which ended at 8.09pm, Kent slid to an unhappy 46 for 3 in their second innings, and still trail by 20 runs. Umpires Nigel Llong and Steve Garratt will have to give an account of the day's dramatic events to the England and Wales Cricket Board, as more than 15 wickets fell on the first day, and an ECB pitch officer will also attend on the second day to investigate the surface.
Garratt, however, said that overcast conditions in the opening session, in which Kent were reduced to 48 for 7, were as helpful to the Middlesex seamers as the well-grassed surface. The umpires still indicated their concern, though, as Azhar in particular exploited the still seaming conditions throughout a sunny late afternoon.
Play began at noon, following the Friends Life t20 match played between the two sides under the new Canterbury floodlights on Saturday evening. Kent narrowly won that game, despite being 21 for 6 after being put in to bat, and after an hour's play of this Championship match there was grim amusement in the visiting dressing room that they were 22 for 6.
Azhar, coming in at No. 8 when James Goodman became the second of three Kent first ball ducks, hit out defiantly with five fours in a 41-ball 32, and the 25 he added with Geraint Jones and the 24 put on with last man Ashley Shaw were precious runs indeed for his side.
Kent captain Rob Key was the first to fall to Middlesex's impressive three-pronged seam attack, bowled by Corey Collymore after half an hour of grim defence. Sam Northeast then went first ball, edging to third slip.
Martin van Jaarsveld, fit again after a broken finger, popped up a catch to short leg off Steven Finn, who then had Darren Stevens gloving a lifter down the legside from his first ball to leave Kent 20 for 4. Murtagh, brought on for the 15th over, struck with his second and sixth balls as Joe Denly played on driving and Goodman was leg-before pushing half forward.
That was 22 for 6 and, at the same score, Jones was dropped by Neil Dexter at second slip on nought before pulling Finn for six to begin a mini-revival.
Jones, Wahab Riaz and Simon Cook all fell victim to Murtagh's accurate seam and swing. Jones flashed a catch to first slip, Wahab was brilliantly caught by diving wicketkeeper John Simpson and Cook was lbw caught on the crease.
Azhar's late hitting was ended by a scythed catch to third man, and despite the loss of Scott Newman, bowled off a thin inside edge by Shaw for 22, it seemed as if Middlesex were moving into complete control at 76 for 1. But Azhar, in a long spell from the Pavilion End either side of tea, bowled Kent back into the game.
He had Dan Housego caught at first slip, Robson taken at the wicket after a composed 40, Dawid Malan caught mis-pulling to mid on and Dexter bowled by one that seemed to keep a little low. Simpson also mishit a pull to mid-wicket and left-arm fast bowler Riaz, his fellow Pakistani, joined in the rout of Middlesex's lower order by firing a yorker into Jamie Dalrymple's stumps and having Steven Crook caught by keeper Jones.
Murtagh was well held by Van Jaarsveld at second slip, off Shaw, and Azhar then returned to end a bright last wicket stand of 29 between Finn and Collymore by having the West Indian caught at third slip, fending off a short one. When Kent batted again, Key became his side's fourth first ball duck victim of the day, thin-edging a defensive prod against Finn to the keeper.
Northeast top-edged a hook at the England fast bowler to long leg. Van Jaarsveld became the 23rd and final dismissal of a bizarre day when he edged a legcutter from Murtagh to first slip.