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Vithushan Ehantharajah at Lord's
September 6, 2012
Middlesex 446 and 129 for 2 (Rogers 57*) lead Lancashire 448 (Brown 78, Prince 71) by 127 runs
Lancashire's bid for Division One safety looks set to be reliant on Surrey failing to beat Nottinghamshire at The Oval ahead of the seventh- and eighth-placed teams meeting next week. Lancashire were unable to build a sizeable first-innings lead against Middlesex on a day that saw them relinquish their Championship crown to Warwickshire.
At the close of play, Middlesex were 127 runs ahead having only lost two wickets, meaning Lancashire will have to bowl them out or concede enough runs early on Friday to convince Chris Rogers to declare. Rogers will be looking to do what only Neil Dexter has done so far in this match and successfully convert his hard work and patience into three figures.
Lancashire looked comfortable in morning, with the combination of early movement and new ball not as potent as many thought it would be, until Ashwell Prince - 12 away from 1,000 first-class runs for the season - nicked to first slip, giving Toby Roland-Jones his first wicket. Persisting on an off-stump line, his second came as a bit of surprise to both himself and Steven Croft, as the ball shot through, between knee and ankle height, uprooting both middle and off. It was the first ball of the match to really misbehave, if you can call it misbehaving on the evidence this summer.
The Lord's pitch has been called a lot of things this season. After Surrey's defeat here at the beginning of the season, Chris Adam's described it as the worst he had even seen. Last month, some had the gall to liken it to an archery venue.
Enter Gareth Cross, who hit the mark, his straps and Ravi Patel, in a counter-attacking display that took Lancashire into lunch on a high, scoring the majority of the runs in a swift fifty partnership with Karl Brown. He took that urgency into the afternoon session, looking for a run off every ball, constantly putting pressure on the Middlesex bowlers and fielders - at times even his partner. He reached 50 off only 30 deliveries, and did little to acknowledge the landmark, knowing he had more work to do. Middlesex would have been disappointed with their effort in periods before and after lunch, which saw Lancashire rack up 100 runs in an hour of play.
Cross' innings was done nine runs later, as he was caught behind off Gareth Berg, having pulled the same bowler for six the ball before. Brown took over as the aggressor but it took him a bit of time to adjust to the shift in roles. While he didn't find the boundary as much as he would have liked to, he bustled his way to his half-century.
With the help of cameos from Kyle Hogg, Glen Chapple and Ajmal Shahzad, Brown took Lancashire past 400, and then to a small first innings lead, before playing a Berg delivery on to his stumps. Patel accounted for all but one of the last four wickets to fall, leaving him one short of a maiden first-class five-wicket haul, though these were his best figures to date.
It would not have been a five-wicket haul that you could read too much into. He bowled well but was gifted a couple of wickets through some sloppy decision making from Lancashire's lower order. Had he achieved the feat, many would have dismissed his achievement as ordinary, what with nine, ten, Jack accounting for three of his scalps. In the end, four seemed about right.
Middlesex's second innings got off to a shaky start, with opener Sam Robson falling to Glen Chapple early. The Lancashire captain, along with Kyle Hogg, asked probing questions, but Rogers and Joe Denly had the right answers. When they didn't, their noncommittal replies allowed them to stay in the debate long enough to converse between overs as to how they would cope with the inevitable evening barrage.
Denly departed to a wicked delivery from Shahzad that nipped in and kept low to disrupt his stumps. Kerrigan bowled studiously at the other end, invoking a few erroneous drives, but at no point did the southpaw pair of Rogers and Dawid Malan display any real discomfort.
Rogers freed his arms to pierce the off-side field - both off the front and back foot - as Shahzad's patience dithered, as it ever does. There's no denying his intent (or pace), but Shahzad needs to understand that even individual bowlers need to have plans. Rogers had a plan - to bore Shahzad into laxity. It worked.
© ESPN EMEA Ltd.
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