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May 13, 2014
Lancashire 266 and 15 for 1 trail Middlesex 459 for 8 dec (Morgan 103, Malan 92, Rayner 77*, Dexter 51, Robson 51, Simpson 50) by 178 runs
If you want to be a contender for the Championship title then becoming unbeatable at home is a good place to start. Middlesex have begun the season in such a vein and have a good chance to make it three wins from three at Lord's with an excellent forecast for the final day. Then they will just need to figure out how to not implode on the road.
Their advance on the third day was frustrated by heavy showers, but they made good use of what was available to them by scoring 184 runs in 55 overs before declaring with a lead of 193. They had hoped for a decent-length session at Lancashire's top order, but rain trimmed it to a 10-over burst as the ground was bathed in even sunshine.
It was enough time, however, for them to remove Luis Reece, the left hander who has struggled this season, when he was caught on the back foot against Tim Murtagh. Steven Finn was promoted to the new-ball in this innings and looked in better rhythm during his five-over spell which included an edge off Paul Horton which may have carried low to third slip but which was not held.
Quite how many players Middlesex provide for England this summer is still up in the air, but Eoin Morgan, key to the limited-overs set-up, reached a significant milestone, with his first Championship hundred since 2009 - although since then he has only played 20 matches - before becoming the second batsman caught down the leg side in the innings.
It was a definite nudge to the England selectors if not quite a forceful push. His technique (barring the occasional flirt outside off) did appear tighter than has previously been the case.
Lancashire's bowling during a truncated morning session was probing, as it was with the first new ball before they faded yesterday. Glen Chapple had a touch more zip about him and Hogg continued his excellent return to the Championship line-up.
They deserved the rewards which came their way after lunch. Hogg removed Neil Dexter, who was bowled trying to pull to end a stand of 126, and had Joe Denly caught behind as he pushed forward. That made it four single-figure scores for Denly this season.
Middlesex were threatening to fall away with a lead of under a hundred, but a robust partnership of 124 in 33 overs between John Simpson and Ollie Rayner soon reasserted their authority. Rayner is one the spinners-who-bat to attract attention from the England selectors and he was on the Lions tour to Sri Lanka earlier this season, but he remains some way down the pecking order for further elevation.
He has just two wickets so far this season - albeit in conditions that have not favoured his art form - but lower-order runs is that vital second string until a spinner becomes more of a matchwinner later in the summer.
Still, while Middlesex will expect their seamers to do most of the work to bowl Lancashire out a second time, if the forecast is as warm and sunny as it promises to be he could yet have more work on the final day.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Andrew McGlashan
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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