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Vithushan Ehantharajah at Lord's
August 3, 2013
Middlesex 168 (Dexter 48, Onions 7-62) and 103 for 2 (Voges 36*) need another 44 runs to beat Durham 143 and 171 (Stokes 51, Rayner 3-25, Murtagh 3-32)
If the ECB do end up looking into this game, after 32 wickets fell in six sessions, then their only conclusion should be to consider enforcing the services of a batting liaison officer for both sides.
Seventeen wickets on the second day trumped 15 on Friday with some panache, as superfluous waft followed ill-judged drive.
Amid all the tumbling wickets, Middlesex have surely snatched the points, needing only 44 runs, with eight wickets remaining and still two days of cricket left, for a fifth win to put them back in the Championship hunt.
As brains were failing to switch back from Twenty20's "see ball, hit ball" setting, it was Graham Onions who took the most personal glory from the second-day cascade, as he finished with 7 for 62 - the best bowling figures of any Durham bowler against Middlesex.
But after Onions, primarily, bowled out Middlesex for 168, Durham fell in their second innings for 171 to swing the game back towards the home side.
It wasn't quite Onions' persistence that was rewarded, but his change-ups: shorter balls doing for Neil Dexter and Ollie Rayner, although their choice and execution of shot left a lot to be desired. Once he tempted Gareth Berg to limply fend at a ball that left him late, the remaining two wickets, which happened to be Steven Finn and Tim Murtagh, were always going to be a formality. He needed only 20 balls to take the five remaining wickets.
At lunch, no sooner had observers blogged and tweeted of his success, he gave his wife Emma and son Olly (on his first trip to Lord's) a tour of the media centre.
By this point Durham had already been reduced to 43 for 3, having lost opener Mark Stoneman just four balls into their second innings, with the score still on nought.
Graham Onions on wickets, babies and England
In the afternoon session, Ben Stokes and Will Smith consolidated exceptionally well to record the first fifty partnership of the match. However, then came the first of three two-wicket clusters which will prove to be the difference between victory and defeat.
For the second time in two days, Smith undid his good work with an appalling shot, attempting to pull Murtagh, but simply lobbing the ball into the hands of Finn running around from mid on. Six balls later, Paul Collingwood had his stumps rearranged by Corey Collymore.
While most batsmen fumbled and flailed, only Stokes looked truly at ease - his solid balance aiding his timing, which was spot on. The way he treated Finn spoke volumes of a man who grown as a batsman - hitting him in front of square with ease, including a controlled pull shot for four.
However, upon becoming the first batsmen to pass 50, he inexplicably danced down the wicket to Ollie Rayner, and a big-turning off spinner, to allow John Simpson the easiest of stumpings. Two balls later, Michael Richardson followed him back for a duck.
Middlesex displayed considerable urgency when they began their chase of 147, with 26 overs left in the day. Threes were taken at every opportunity - with a couple of optimistic ones sensibly turned down - but this slowly morphed into panic, as Joe Denly looked to play a shot every three balls, regardless of their worth.
After getting away with a particularly lax attempt to hit over the top - the ball spooned over mid-on before plugging - he followed up with a pair of boundaries so clean and crisp that you were happy to give him the benefit of any doubt: an aesthetically-pleasing stroke through extra cover off Rushworth followed in the next over by a back foot smash through cover.
However, he could not even entertain playing the ball that ended his innings, as Onions drew the first genuinely alarming reaction from the pitch when a good length ball reared up and caught the shoulder of the bat - the extra bounce such that Stokes needed to backpedal to take the catch at point.
Morgan could have gone the very next ball - a huge shout for LBW silenced in a flash as the umpire turned to the scorer's box to signal a no-ball. He survived another, when Rushworth, coming around the wicket, thought he drew a faint edge through to the keeper. All of the Durham side were up in unison but Morgan and the standing umpire were unmoved.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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