Voges, Read punish Middlesex slips
Nottinghamshire 329 (Voges 105, Read 71, Colleymore 4-87) lead Middlesex 98 by 231 runs
Middlesex have pleasantly surprised most of their followers by making an encouragingly good start to life back in the first division. Indeed, but for bad weather during the match against Somerset at Lord's a month ago they might well have ended the first half of this season as Championship leaders.
Reality has now kicked in. Having been rolled over for just 98 on Thursday, through a combination of tricky pitch, fine bowling and some over-ambitious batting, they needed to keep Nottinghamshire on a tight rein. Instead, catches were missed and two former internationals - Adam Voges, of Australia, and England's Chris Read - made them pay a heavy price.
Voges, now in his fifth season with the county but a late starter this year because of IPL duties, scored a grafting century while Read, who continues to make important runs when they are most needed, contributed 71. Both were dropped before reaching 20 but by the time they parted company 143 runs had been added for the sixth wicket and Notts, top of the table by a single point from Warwickshire starting this round of matches, were well on their way to what should be a decisive first innings lead of 231.
Rain arrived at tea to prevent the visitors from getting stuck in to Middlesex for a second time - and the forecast for Saturday is far from good. But with another day after that to come there is still every chance of an away win.
"The game is set up nicely for us," Voges said. "We've got a pretty handy lead and hopefully we can bowl as well as we did during their first innings. I know Andre Adams [who took 6 for 32 on day one] is licking his lips with so many left-handers in their line-up to bowl at."
Thanks mainly to Adams, Notts had more than their noses in front when play resumed. But at 114 for 4, they were only 16 ahead and, in theory at least, Middlesex had kept themselves in the contest despite dropping a couple of catches on the first evening.
Three more chances were to go to ground, however, and challenging spells of bowling from Toby Roland-Jones and Tim Murtagh failed to receive the support that was needed.
Voges survived on 11 when he edged Roland-Jones into the slip cordon where Ollie Rayner - diving left in front of Andrew Strauss - reached but failed to grasp a knee-high opportunity. Only seven runs had been added to the overnight score at the time but that was by no means the end of Middlesex's fielding woes.
The chance offered by Read, on 15, was more difficult but, at 177 for 5 and with the cat almost out of the bag, it badly needed taking. Instead, a fierce drive against Corey Collymore was parried by Gareth Berg, leaping at point, but fell to ground.
"They came at us pretty hard during that morning session and we had a bit of luck, but I think you need it on a wicket like that," said Voges, who ought to be a candidate to add to his 15 one-day international appearances for Australia but may be considered yesterday's man at nearly 33.
"This was certainly not my best hundred: it was a real graft but I'm very pleased with it," said Voges. "I really enjoy batting with Chris Read. We run well together between the wickets and he just keeps churning out the scores for Notts. He is a terrific player."
Even when Read departed, Middlesex experienced a bit more misery before the second new ball accounted for Nottinghamshire's tail. Adams, clearly keen to get bowling again, threw the bat at all four balls he faced - hitting Roland-Jones for six and four, then being dropped at slip by Gareth Berg before playing on.
According to the statisticians, Middlesex have already dropped more catches this season than they did in the whole of last year's Division Two-winning campaign. Now they may need to bat like kings to get out of this contest with a draw.