Middlesex v Notts, Div 1, Lord's, 1st day April 13, 2014

Finn shows promise but Notts shade the day

Vithushan Ehantharajah

Nottinghamshire 315 for 8 (Taylor 62, Mullaney 52, Finn 4-80, Harris 4-87) v Middlesex

Steven Finn showed glimpses of better days ahead with four wickets but Middlesex' will reflect that a general inability to sustain pressure allowed Lord's first day of the Championship season to get away from them.

Nottinghamshire will also rue the fact that four batsmen got starts - three registering fifties - and nothing more, as the sun eventually baked a flat Lord's deck to what for April at least was close to batting perfection.

It was only when Peter Siddle strode out to the crease in the early evening that you realised just how balmy conditions were for batsmen. Capable with the bat and aided by a small boundary away to the Grandstand, Siddle timed the second new ball through cover, point, midwicket and over square leg, into the upper tier, for a 35-ball 40 that took Notts past 300. He was seeing it like a banana.

It was a far cry from Steven Mullaney's battling yet valuable effort at the start, in which he toughed out early movement and enforced toil for almost four hours.

Re-engineered more times than the Batman franchise, Mullaney, in his current guise as opener, withstood fits of pressure and a painful rap on the gloves, before reaching 40 in 163 balls. The additional runs for the half-century took just six, featuring a towering six down the ground off Ollie Rayner. But, a ball after acknowledging his achievement, he was off, nicking Steven Finn to Dawid Malan at second slip.

After missing last week's opening victory against Lancashire with a side strain, Taylor came into the Nottinghamshire line up in place of Alex Hales, who consoled himself with a hit on the Nursery Ground in the afternoon session.

Taylor started sluggishly; not so much with his scoring rate - nearly a run a ball going into the lunch break - but with his execution of shots. A couple of loose drives to Gareth Berg and some indecision outside off stump suggested a degree of ring rust. But he shook himself out of his stupor thanks to a thumping pull shot off Steven Finn, which had bat-pad and square-leg motionless but fearing for their safety all the same, and some loose bowling from James Harris.

Taylor was more composed after the interval, enjoying most of his success against Harris, whose efforts with ball would not even merit a spot on the fridge. But as he skipped past fifty with some nicely timed strokes off Berg, Harris, desperate to vindicate the decision to select him ahead of Toby Roland-Jones, had pinned down Mullaney at the other end, for two consecutive maidens.

Reunited in the 48th over, Harris struck first ball to see off Taylor lbw, despite the batsman's belief that he had got bat on the ball. At stumps, he reserved ire for himself rather than the umpire: "There was definitely a hundred there for the taking. Obviously I would have liked a hundred but at the end of the day I scored valuable runs for the team - it's frustrating that I didn't get a hundred. Never mind, it happens."

Three balls later, Harris picked up the valuable wicket of Samit Patel for a duck. It was then the turn of Rikki Wessels to saunter to his fifty, after some watchful play between himself and skipper Chris Read. Their partnership of 86 did enough to ensure that Notts would finish the day at least on par with Middlesex, only for Siddle to hand them the spoils.

That they are not further ahead owes much to Steven Finn, who was the pick of the bowlers today for both speed and intent. As a collective, Middlesex's bowling was erratic, but Finn was an aggressive presence throughout, taking responsibility as enforcer to hold an attacking line in a bid to unease settled batsmen.

Mullaney, Wessels and Siddle wore, if not ducked and dove under a handful of bouncers, before Finn, who did not start the day with the new ball, used the second to topple Read's off stump, with a hint of movement, and draw Wessels into a prod to Ollie Rayner at first slip.

The sun is expected to shine as uninhibitedly on day two as it has on day one, allowing Middlesex the perfect opportunity to atone for their failings at Hove last week.