Middlesex v Lancashire, Division 1, Lord's, 2nd day May 12, 2014

Morgan shows signs of life

Middlesex 275 for 3 (Malan 92, Morgan 72*, Robson 51) lead Lancashire 266 (Smith 59, Buttler 59, Dexter 6-63) by nine runs
Scorecard

It has been a strange old early season for Middlesex's batsmen. Funny things can happen in April and May, but there leaps from the sublime to ridiculous are a notch above.

From the highs of 472 for 3 and 439 to the lows of 105 and being 66 for 8, it has been a case of all or almost nothing. So in many ways, reaching 275 for 3 on the second day against Lancashire was a little bit vanilla; solid, efficient, workmanlike. In all seriousness, though, it was just what they needed and a good day's work to secure a strong position in the match when rain cut off the last 10 overs.

Three half-centuries moulded Middlesex's strong reply with Eoin Morgan reaching the close unbeaten on 76 and eyeing his first Championship hundred since 2009 (he has only had three first-class hundreds since then, two of them in his Test career).

With the T20 and ODIs against Sri Lanka beginning shortly, where Morgan will feature, it may be too late for a run to the Test team at the start of the season, largely due to Gary Ballance's fine form, but very little about new England is yet set in stone.

There is also a sense that the selectors will not need to be overly persuaded to bring Morgan back into the Test side. After his nudge and a wink to skip the IPL he is earmarked as not only that 'something a little different' in the middle order but also one of few viable candidates to lead the side if the team's fortunes do not improve under Alastair Cook.

With a view to the longer format, this innings was watchful and, largely, restrained although there were two shots which summed him up as a red-ball cricketer: a thick edge through gully as he drove away from his body and a reverse sweep against Simon Kerrigan. There will always be an element of edge-of-the-seat about him, which should be applauded not nullified.

The one black mark on Morgan's innings was the involvement in the run out of Dawid Malan, eight short of what would have been his first Championship hundred since August 2012 against Warwickshire. He was caught out by Morgan's push and run into the leg side. It was always a tight call from Morgan, but Malan hesitated for a fraction of a second as well.

Malan was dropped on 34 at first slip by Paul Horton - he was diving to his right which suggested it should have been Jos Buttler's catch - but otherwise had few alarms against an honest, but limited Lancashire attack.

Perhaps Malan's dismissal was a hint of karma after he had earlier been involved in ending Robson's innings. Robson was sold down the river and beaten by a direct hit from cover, having played an innings low on standout shots but high on the watchfulness and judgement that has put him on the brink of a Test debut.

Two run-outs from three wickets to fall was careless on a day where the sun shone for the most part which so often makes batting easier here. The only Lancashire bowler to strike was Kyle Hogg when he had Chris Rogers caught down the leg side with his second ball of the Championship season. It was a neat, low catch by Buttler and though the umpires briefly conferred over whether it carried Rogers was content to walk off.

It was a curious day for Kerrigan, who was used a disappointingly stereotypical way by Glen Chapple: one over before lunch, one over before the second new ball and just five in between. There were some mitigating circumstances for Chapple - often two left handers at the crease and a short Tavern boundary - but the seamers did not gain vast amounts of help.

Young English spinners will only develop if they are allowed to bowl, and in challenging circumstances. Morgan was clearly keen to attack Kerrigan, as the reverse-swept four showed, but it is only what he will encounter if he returns to the top level.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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