Reliable Murtagh keeps Middlesex on top
Middlesex 105 for 0 v Derbyshire 252
Steven Finn made light of the 120-mile drive from Nottingham and his late inclusion for Middlesex by taking a wicket with his third ball of the game as County Championship rivals Derbyshire were dismissed for 252 on the opening day at Lord's.
In reply, Middlesex closed on 105 without loss, with Scott Newman unbeaten on 51 and Sam Robson with 48 not out - as Finn watched on, with feet up and resting on the players' balcony.
Having driven to Trent Bridge on Thursday evening to act as cover for the second Test between England and India - only to lose the selection head-to-head to Tim Bresnan - Finn hopped back in his Jaguar for the two-hour return trek to St John's Wood and made an immediate impact.
By the time the 6ft 8ins paceman ran onto the field at 1.45pm Derbyshire were already mounting a spirited recovery from a dreadful opening half-hour. The visitors had slipped to 14 for 3 in the face of an excellent new-ball burst from Tim Murtagh, this after Derbyshire had elected to bat first after winning the toss just before the delayed start at noon.
With the first delivery of the match Murtagh, fresh from the second 10-wicket match haul of his career against Surrey last week, got one to lift, find the shoulder of Martin Guptill's bat and fly to gully. In his third over, Murtagh ran one away from Wayne Madsen's outside edge to have him caught at slip, also without scoring.
Then, six deliveries later, an ill-judged back-foot force by Chesney Hughes sliced off a thick edge to Neil Dexter in the gully to give Murtagh his third victim in as many overs. Finn's arrival was received with a round of applause from appreciative Middlesex members, which he soon repaid with the third-ball wicket of Wes Durston that broke a fourth-wicket stand with Greg Smith that added 114.
Caught out by the full length and Finn's extra pace, Durston was caught on the crease and plum leg before for 61, scored off 90 balls. Smith followed soon after lunch, leg before to an excellent off-cutter for 57 to give Murtagh figures of four for 45.
When Finn rushed one through the back-foot defence of Luke Sutton to make it 166 for six there was a real danger Derbyshire would fail to post a single batting point.
On what appears a tinder-dry pitch, Dexter introduced spin after only an hour, but it took until mid-afternoon for the move to pay dividends as Derbyshire lost three for four in 38 balls against the wiles of young left-arm spinner Tom Smith.
The 22-year-old had Jonathan Clare caught at slip and Tim Groenewald snaffled behind, both off defensive pushes, then Tony Palladino prodded outside the line of an arm ball to proffer a bat-pad catch to short leg.
The in-form Ross Whiteley refused to lie down, however, and his two-hour stay for 56 helped the visitors to a second batting bonus point before he holed out to mid-on to give Finn figures of three for 51.
Newman and Robson batted circumspectly throughout the remaining 28 overs of the day to cut the deficit to 147 with all first-innings wickets intact going into day two.