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George Dobell at Trent Bridge
April 13, 2013
Middlesex 353 (Simpson 97*, Robson 76, Rogers 50) and 110 for 0 (Robson 55*, Rogers 51*) beat Nottinghamshire 278 (Cowan 61, Taylor 55, Roland-Jones 6-63) and 182 (Adams 50, Dexter 5-27) by ten wickets
It was probably fitting that the moment of victory in this match should feature an elegant drive through extra-cover by a Middlesex player and a Nottinghamshire fielder diving over the ball. While Middlesex deserved their comprehensive win, Nottinghamshire must reflect on a performance full of errors and self-inflicted injury.
Sam Robson, who hit the winning runs, and Chris Rogers rushed Middlesex to victory on the final day. The pair took just 25 overs to overhaul their target of 108 with Robson, in particular, underlining the impression that he is a batsmen of rich promise.
Any realistic hopes that Nottinghamshire could have set a testing target were dashed by the first delivery of the day. Toby Roland-Jones, teasing Andre Adams outside the off stump with a well directed ball just back of a length, was rewarded by a tentative prod and a thick edge to second slip. While there was an outside chance of defending such a target in conditions that remained helpful, Nottinghamshire's seamers continued to spray the ball in all directions. At one stage Ajmal Shahzad, poor on his debut, conceded three boundaries in four balls as he indulged Rogers' predilection for the short leg-side boundary like an indulgent bird feeding its chick.
Victory should underline Middlesex's credentials as Championship contenders. Certainly their seam bowling resources are unusually plentiful and, in most conditions, that will prove a vital asset. Nor are there too many more solid opening partnerships in the top division. In this game they simply did the basics well and made fewer mistakes than their opposition. Often, that is enough.
Perhaps, later in the season, their spin bowling resources will be tested but the performance of John Simpson, back in the runs after a grim 2012, and Gareth Berg, who contributed with bat and ball despite being less than 100% fit, bodes well for the depth of their side. Steven Finn returns for their next game, against Derbyshire, while the club remain hopeful that James Harris, who did not bowl in the second innings due to a hamstring strain, will also be fit to return. To win with only two fully-fit first-choice seamers was a fine effort, though it reflects poorly on Nottinghamshire to be dismissed by a bowler of Neil Dexter's modesty.
It is the first time Nottinghamshire have lost the opening match of the Championship campaign since 2002 - when Middlesex were also the victors - and the first time in seven seasons they have not won their opening game. ESPNcricinfo understands there were strong words exchanged between team-mates after the third day's play, with the batsmen in particular receiving a reminder about their responsibilities.
Certainly one or two them will look back at this game and shudder. Samit Patel's hideous second-innings swipe - witnessed by Andy Flower - can have done him few favours, while James Taylor was also out to unflattering strokes in both innings. His first-innings dismissal, and that of Riki Wessels, just before the second new ball was taken was probably a pivotal moment.
Nottinghamshire miss the next round of games - they play Durham MCCU instead - and hope that Wessels, who sustained a minor hamstring strain in this match, will be fit before the next Championship match against Derbyshire. The likes of Paul Franks, Harry Gurney and Jake Ball will also be pressing for inclusion after lacklustre performances from Andrew Carter and Shahzad. They will rarely come across more helpful conditions to bowl in than those they experienced in Middlesex's first innings and their failure to exploit them - and propensity to offer 'four balls' instead - cost their side dear. Suffice to say, whatever advice a bowling coach gives Carter, it is unlikely to be 'Why don't you try the short ball more often?'
The one down side to this from a Middlesex perspective is that they may well have condemned themselves to another chilly pre-season in a tent in Radlett. While Nottinghamshire were one of six counties to enjoy pre-season in Barbados, where they won the T20 competition, on the evidence of this match Middlesex were the better prepared and acclimatised.
Newell dismissed any idea that the preparation had been misplaced - he pointed out that Nottinghamshire also had 10 days training at home before the season - and denied any suggestion that his decision to prohibit players from taking part in the IPL had in any way damaged team spirit. Patel, Alex Hales and Michael Lumb, who recorded a pair in this match, were all keen to participate.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: George Dobell
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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