Middlesex v Durham, Lord's, 1st day August 2, 2013

Finn proves a delight for Dexter

Vithushan Ehantharajah at Lord's

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.

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  • Mark on August 3, 2013, 7:58 GMT

    @adyoxford Absolutely spot on. This is two sides who have demonstrated frail batting time and again, but who have strong bowling. With both Finn and Onions desperate for a recall to England ranks, something like this was always possible. Add to it the fact that the batsmen have been in T20 mode for weeks and that Middlesex were missing their main runscorer for the last two seasons and you have a train wreck in the making.

    Pitch inspectors punish bad pitches, not bad batting - bBowlers do that.

  • Adrian on August 2, 2013, 21:28 GMT

    Nothing wrong with the pitch. OK 15 wickets fell on the day but the likes of Denly and Voges got out to poor strokes and there was some first class bowling. Murtagh made the most of the early overcast conditions and then Finn reminded the England selectors of his abilities. For Durham, Onions as ever was excellent and he was well supported by the other Durham seamers. Should be another tense day tomorrow!

  • Mark on August 2, 2013, 21:18 GMT

    @Patrick Clarke I was at the famous match in 2011 when 22 wickets fell in one day and the match threatened to end in one day. On that occasion that pitch was blameless and I can assure you that I was in probably just about the best position in the ground to judge. Similar comments to yours were posted then. The reason for the fall of so many wickets was dreadful batting against some pretty undistinguished bowling; there was some movement, but not that much either off the pitch or in the air.

    Today, I was not in the ground, but was listening to the commentary all day and would make the same comment: there was nothing much wrong with the pitch, but quite a lot wrong with the batting. It looked like the same basic cause: batsmen still trying to play in T20 mode, who had no patience to bat properly.

  • Dummy4 on August 2, 2013, 19:45 GMT

    And if this match was being played at the Ageas Bowl, an army of pitch inspectors from the ECB would already be in residence.

  • stuart on August 2, 2013, 19:38 GMT

    Finn just needs to bowl and bowl.He just has not looked himself this year and he needs to get some work under his belt.Still a potential world class talent he just needs fine tuning and some confidence.

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