Finn proves a delight for Dexter
Middlsex 126 for 5 (Dexter 40*) trail Durham 143 (Finn 4-46) by 17 runs
With the sky overcast and what looked to be a responsive pitch, there was little doubt as to what Neil Dexter would do when he won the toss. But even he couldn't have envisaged just how quickly the game would progress on its opening day, as he walked in with Middlesex 15 for 3, having dismissed Durham for 143 inside two sessions.
Eyebrows will be raised as 15 wickets fell for just 269 runs, but before calling for the magnifying glass and duster - or whatever implements a pitch liaison officer has at his disposal - it should be noted that six batsmen departed with no one but themselves to blame. The most self-afflicted dismissal - Joe Denly's prod to the slips comes close - was Adam Voges, who inexplicably found point when Graham Onions offered him some width.
Both innings started similarly, with the first three wickets falling quickly, before a minor fourth wicket fight-back was curtailed. Tim Murtagh and Corey Collymore began today's procession, as both got the ball to move across Durham's left-hand-heavy top order. There was some surprise that Collymore took the new ball ahead of the returning Steven Finn, but there was talk that Finn himself may have suggested it.
Dropped from the England squad for the third Test along with Onions, one theory was that the selectors wanted both to get some quality, competitive cricket under their belts. They were certainly under close scrutiny, with national selector Geoff Miller and Ashley Giles present at Lord's to watch them both bowl briskly and with good rhythm. Of the two, Finn's intent indicated he thought he had more to prove.
This was his fifth appearance for Middlesex and certainly his best performance so far, as shown in his figures. His pace was consistently high, his lines relentless and probing, but perhaps most encouraging was his smooth approach to the crease. A minor blemish was his occasional straying which provided relief and boundaries - six, the most of any bowler - but he extracted some extravagant bounce, most notably to Paul Collingwood, who could only jump and fend the ball back for a return catch. It was perhaps the most complete bowling performance Dexter could have asked for, as Murtagh, Collymore and Berg - who backed up his front three exceptionally - all finished with two wickets each.
Durham's reply with the ball started with the wicket of Denly, who became Onion's 400th first-class victim, before Voges obliged for 401. Eoin Morgan, whose last first-class cricket was last August for the England Lions, against Australia A, looked to rebuild, coming in when Sam Robson was spectacularly dismissed by Chris Rushworth, who uprooted his leg stump, but Morgan was trapped in front by fellow England hopeful Ben Stokes, as Middlesex looked all at sea.
But Dexter took charge, stepping back and cobbling runs together with some nice strokes to the leg side boundary, before Gareth Berg joined him and scored relatively briskly. In a match that already looks like a low scorer, a fast-paced contribution tomorrow morning could be crucial.