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David Lloyd at Lord's
June 2, 2012
Middlesex 491 (Rogers 98) and 19 for 0 beat Sussex 283 (Murtagh 5-55) and 225 (Brown 53, Berg 3-53) by ten wickets
Middlesex will be without Steven Finn for next week's home Championship match against Somerset, regardless of whether or not he makes his Test return on Thursday. The fast bowler is certain to be in the squad to face West Indies, at the very least, but his county colleagues should take enough confidence from this excellent victory to believe they can cope without him.
Finn certainly played his part here, especially during the early stages of Sussex's second innings. The first three wickets - Ed Joyce, Chris Nash and Murray Goodwin - all fell to the 23-year-old, who looks quick and hostile even on a slow pitch, and the visitors were immediately up against it.
Had Finn added a fourth victim (and made it seven for the match) Middlesex would surely have won by an innings. But Eoin Morgan dropped a fast, two-handed chance in the gully before No. 8 Naved Arif had scored and Sussex - showing some welcome and somewhat overdue fight during the afternoon session - just about managed to make the hosts bat again.
Despite Finn's important contribution, Middlesex are anything but a one, two or even three-man team. Last year's Division Two champions started the season with many people tipping them as relegation candidates but this 10-wicket success sees them firmly established in fourth place.
Their third win of the season was sealed during the early stages of the final session. But it was what happened during the first two hours of day one that had most bearing on the outcome - Tim Murtagh, Finn's new-ball partner, taking three wickets at next to no cost as Sussex, having chosen to bat, crumpled to 66 for 5. The visitors did well to recover to 283 after that. It was still an inadequate total, however, and a draw became the height of their ambition once Middlesex amassed nearly 500 without a single century-maker. Five players passed 50 to underline the depth of their batting.
"We are playing some good cricket," Angus Fraser, Middlesex's director of cricket, said. "The only objective we've set ourselves this season is to make a positive impression on this division. I want the coaches of all the big, successful sides to go away from their games against us thinking we are a good team who can only get better."
Sussex believed on the fourth morning that they could escape. But Finn's 11th ball of the day put a huge dent in that idea, a fast yorker ripping through Chris Nash's defence. Having removed Ed Joyce the previous evening, Finn made it three-for with the struggling Murray Goodwin edging into the huge, flypaper hands of Ollie Rayner at second slip.
From then on, it was only likely to be a matter of time. Sussex did not help themselves, however, with Luke Wright snicking an away-from-the-body drive against Gareth Berg and Mike Yardy inexplicably pulling Toby Roland-Jones straight to deep square leg. And so it continued, with even Ben Brown - who played so well while compiling his second half-century of the match and sharing in a stand of 63 with Arif - bizarrely falling to a fluffed reverse sweep against Rayner.
Sussex will find themselves in relegation bother this season unless they can sort out their batting. They play Surrey at Horsham next week still looking for a total in excess of 315, and their biggest individual worry must be Goodwin. The veteran Zimbabwean has nine single-figure failures in 11 knocks.
As for Middlesex, it is onwards and upwards. And they wish Finn well on his travels. "When you are out of the England side and badly wanting to get back in you are constantly striving to get a big bag of wickets," said Fraser. "You're bowling can suffer as a result but he has been doing well for us and I'm sure he will do well for England when he next plays for them."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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