Middlesex v Lancashire, Division 1, Lord's, 1st day May 11, 2014

Lancashire fight as Dexter takes six

Lancashire 266 (Smith 59, Buttler 59, Dexter 6-63) v Middlesex

For a side that had gained just one batting point in their first four Championship matches, Lancashire's 266 having been put in under leaden skies at Lord's was a decent effort. A familiar plight appeared to be emerging when they were four down before lunch.

The revival was led by the pair of Jos Buttler and Tom Smith who were key to Lancashire's one win so far this season, against Northamptonshire, but the individual honours for the day when to Neil Dexter with a career-best 6 for 63.

Facing an attack of Tim Murtagh, Toby Roland-Jones and Steven Finn, it will annoy Lancashire that they lost so many to Dexter, whose one previous five-wicket haul came last season against Nottinghamshire.

However, he pitched the ball fuller and moved it more than his three frontline colleagues and it meant Middlesex had a four-man attack even though Ollie Rayner only had two overs before the second new ball. Dexter's role was given added importance as Finn struggled for consistency, not horrendously so but enough to remind everyone of his fragile state.

Middlesex did not always help themselves in the field. Four catches went down - two by Rayner at slip on a proper hands-in-pocket temperature day - although the damage could have been worse. Ashwell Prince was missed, low down at second slip on 1, but fell for 17 and Buttler was missed at midwicket five runs before he was dismissed when Eoin Morgan had done the tricky bit of getting underneath a leading edge only for the ball to spill out.

Buttler had also been given a reprieve on 13 when he drove loosely at Murtagh and Rayner spilled his second opportunity. That allowed him to help rebuild Lancashire's innings, firstly alongside the obdurate Luke Procter and then the more fluent Smith.

Matt Prior's achilles - now well and truly in the 'worrisome' bracket - continues to keep him on the sidelines and although Jonny Bairstow, the incumbent Test keeper, has regained the gloves for Yorkshire, Buttler has now twice made runs in challenging circumstances this season.

His keeping remains rough around the edges, as his drop against Scotland showed, but England are not about to go back to the notion of being a keeper first, batsman second. That is not to ignore the batting merits of James Foster and Chris Read, who are better batsmen now than when first selected, but their time has surely gone.

This was a restrained innings by Buttler standards - his fifty came from 85 balls with consecutive boundaries off Finn - but he rode his fortune, picking off some handsome drives until reaching out for a wide delivery from Dexter and picking out extra cover, where Chris Rogers improved the standard of catching.

Middlesex had made enough inroads before lunch to justify inserting, chipping out each of Lancashire's top order just as they had battled through the early challenge on a cloudy, chilly day.

Paul Horton, the stand-out player in a fragile top five, guided to second slip while trying to withdraw his bat; Luis Reece pressed forward and edged behind - 23 was his best Championship score of a lean season; Karl Brown, who had played compactly, dragged on to give Dexter his first and Prince was given lbw to one that straightened.

Procter's innings was painful to watch, but he at least stayed with Buttler while 55 runs were added in 20 overs either side of lunch which allowed the ball to soften further. A drive without footwork let him down, this time Rayner held on a second slip. Smith was far more assured at the crease as his season tally before this match of 237 suggested he would be.

This innings made him Lancashire's leading run-scorer of the season - competition for that title, it must be said, has not been overly stiff - and the ease with which he played suggested he is a bit low at No. 7 in a struggling line-up. He has previously opened in four-day cricket and a couple of the on-drives he played were of a quality that would not be out of place back in the top five. Who is that other Lancashire allrounder making the news?

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Des on May 12, 2014, 10:14 GMT

    @ geoffboyc Excellent comment ; my thoughts on Moores exactly which I expanded on the Lancs Forum to discuss his record with every first team player he worked with . Even Kerrigan hasn't come on as quickly as he might have done .

    @ Nicholas Ryan Parry is an excellent one day bowler but I've watched him in plenty of club cricket and that is what he is , not a wicket taker.

    @ RMDover . I was a fan of Stephen Moore as he was a lovely bat to watch but hadn't the concentration to build an innings regularly. Was very rarely got out in a conventional opener's way ; usually hooking. You might have hoped that the "best coach of his generation "might have done something with him but in the end it was the correct decision to release.

  • Chris on May 12, 2014, 8:12 GMT

    Another frustrating batting display at Lords yesterday. Conditions were not ideal for batting but at least three of the dismissals were self-inflicted against a bowler with a modest Championship record. This is the Moores legacy; not a single academy batsman has progressed on his watch and, apart from Kerrigan, all the up and coming bowlers have stood still or gone backward and been replaced by players no better than them. It seems that the Lancs hierarchy are more interested in ground development than team development, and most members are not enthused by their attempts at either, as anyone attempting the thankless task of watching a game from the OT pavilion will tell you.

  • Rafi on May 12, 2014, 0:41 GMT

    Where is the international batsman? Why was Stephen Moore released? Neither Brown nor Procter should be playing. I understand why Reece is in the team, he clearly has potential, but not the other two. A top seven of Horton, Reece, Moore, Prince, Overseas, Buttler, Smith is not amazing but not bad, and far better than Lancashire's current set. I just don't understand why there is no overseas batsman. Faf du Plessis could've come back (and been an excellent three format player), or someone like Kane Williamson couldve come in and made runs.

  • Des on May 11, 2014, 21:18 GMT

    "England are not about to go back to the era of being a keeper first, batsman second" . Perish the thought that we should go back to the days where the best keeper could save you a hundred runs against the thirty or forty per game he might lose you batting.

    Great to see Tom Smith's success with the bat but hope that Lancs don't bat him higher than six. His batting career lost a season and a half with Moores' madcap idea to make him an opener ; as soon as he was put back where he belonged, he scored a Roses century. And that is not wisdom after the event ; I forecast it on the Lancs Cricket Forum.

  • Dummy4 on May 11, 2014, 20:23 GMT

    Good to see Dexter get some wickets - He, Denly and Malan are in rather alarming form at the moment but are all players with the potential to excel at this level. Here's hoping that Middlesex's 3-11 equal the scores of 1 & 2

  • Dummy4 on May 11, 2014, 19:12 GMT

    This is almost certainly the worst Lancashire side for years, yet there is no place for Stephen Parry, who is considered good enough to play for England! [admittedly in 20-over cricket] Have Lancashire got it right, or have England got it right?

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