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September 20, 2013
Yorkshire 210 (Gale 66, Williamson 52) and 194 (Ballance 90) beat Middlesex 128 (Sidebottom 4-27) and 196 (Rogers 65, Brooks 4-33) by 80 runs
The last Australia Test player to leave these shores departed in high dudgeon. Chris Rogers left the field with a look of consternation and hands outstretched as he was adjudged to be caught at the wicket. With Rogers went Middlesex's improbable hopes of chasing 277 and Yorkshire were confirmed, as everybody had presumed they would be, as Division One runners-up.
The crowd seemed content enough with a near miss: when Yorkshire's players went on a thank-you lap, they received a standing ovation.
Leaving with exasperation and a sense of wrongdoing is the way the last Australian cricketer in the building should always turn off the lights. But Rogers' commitment to Middlesex has been unquestioned, either side of his first Ashes series, and if his innings had a little end-of-term skittishness to it, his 65 from 85 balls represented Middlesex's only lasting threat. Ryan Sidebottom bowled him on 28, but was called for a no-ball, whereupon he stared fiercely at the white line like a gardener suspecting caterpillar trails on his cabbages.
This pitch never lost its liking for seam bowlers. All the quick bowlers on show had their moments and while that should ensure praise of Middlesex's debutant, Tom Helm, is tempered, his match figures of 5 for 78, without a tailender in sight, revealed him to be a bowler of promise. An England Under-19, he is strikingly tall and rangy with a good, high action - just the sort of description for England's bowling coach, David Saker, to make a mental note to monitor his progress.
Rogers and Sam Robson, his opening partner, have bolstered Middlesex's season. But Rogers won an Ashes call-up and Robson's form slumped the moment that Australia changed their regulations and encouraged a debate over whether his loyalties might lie with them or England. He failed twice here, outdone by Steve Patterson on both occasions and passed 50 only once in 15 goes after the Ashes series got underway in mid-July - albeit an eye-catching 166 against Sussex at Hove.
With Middlesex's season now over, both Sussex and Warwickshire can still overhaul them in third place if they win their final match next week. Not for the first time, Middlesex's middle order went walkabout - literally in the case of Eoin Morgan, who was tweeting about the beauty of the west coast of Ireland around the time that their collapse began. Morgan is expected to lose his England central contract next week, leaving Middlesex with a potentially expensive player who is rightly treasured by England and in the IPL but whose county worth is not immediately apparent.
Rogers: Middlesex lacked runs
Up in what passes for the Yorkshire media box, Dickie Bird briefly held court while Middlesex wickets fell. Yorkshire's change bowlers, Liam Plunkett and Jack Brooks, have traded runs for wickets all season, and the first two overs they shared spilled 17. But Plunkett had Dawid Malan lbw to the second of two yorkers and Brooks took the first of four wickets when Neil Dexter fell to a brilliant slip catch by Kane Williamson. Their trading terms were more than acceptable.
"I tipped Durham to win the title and Yorkshire to finish second in April," Bird revealed. He did, too, but it seems that Dickie did quite a lot of tipping. News of Dickie's prophecy was somewhat undermined when a video was unearthed from the Scarborough Festival, where he confidently assured everybody that a Yorkshire Championship win was a formality. There again, he was interviewed outside the hospitality marquee, so he probably had good reason for his optimism.
That confidence in Yorkshire collapsed, as we now know, when Durham beat them at Scarborough that very week. But there is probably also a video where the World's Most Famous Test Umpire (retired) waxes lyrically about the batting prowess of Gary Ballance. Ballance's pugnacious 90 was the top-score of the match, his hopes of a hundred ending when he hauled Helm to long leg.
Dickie remained impressed and wandered off to find James Whitaker, the England selector, and tell him to put Ballance in England's Ashes squad. Whitaker kept schtum. He will join the England selectors for what could be lengthy deliberations this weekend.
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