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Jon Culley at Trent Bridge
June 14, 2014
Middlesex 413 for 5 (Rogers 180, Morgan 174*) v Nottinghamshire
This was a day dominated by two batsmen but Middlesex need only cast an eye over Nottinghamshire's statistics so far to be reminded that the key to success in Championship cricket lies with the bowlers. Going into this match, Chris Read's team had five batsman with 500 or more Division One runs so far compared with Middlesex's two, yet none with 20 wickets or more against Middlesex's three.
It provides much of the explanation for why Middlesex have won four matches and Nottinghamshire only two thus far and why Middlesex, with Steven Finn (30 wickets), Tim Murtagh (24) and Toby Roland-Jones (23) to call upon, look a more optimistic bet for the title. If those bowlers can underscore the work done by Chris Rogers and Eoin Morgan that only emphasised the ordinariness of the home side's attack in several phases of the day, then Middlesex's title ambitions will be further reinforced.
Morgan's unbeaten 174 gave him back-to-back hundreds following his 103 against Lancashire a month ago, which ended a drought of five years without one century in the Championship. This was his highest score in Championship cricket and his career-best 209 for Ireland might be under threat if he can negotiate the opening overs of day two against a new ball 16 overs old.
Rogers, with whom he shared a third-wicket stand of 272 that is a Middlesex record against Nottinghamshire, sees Morgan this season making clear progress in his four-day game following his decision to forego his annual stint in the IPL.
"A couple of years ago when he played some four-day cricket for us I still felt there were areas of his game that needed improving, particularly his defence," Rogers said. "But his he has come back this year I have been very surprised at how that has improved.
"His game is in excellent order at the moment and he just has that ability to take teams down once he gets in as he did today. He can hit 360 degrees around the field and that is a rare skill.
"I think England would benefit from having a positive player like him in the Test side but he has to earn it now by putting together consistent performances in the way Sam Robson did."
Rogers himself was in a familiar groove here, dominating the Nottinghamshire attack until, within 20 runs of a double-hundred, he went for the uppercut against Andre Adams and found James Taylor lurking at deep point. Nonetheless, it is fair to say that the Australia opener knows how to score runs against Nottinghamshire bowling. In his last seven first-class innings against the county, he has hit 526, only once scoring fewer than 50.
Fours zipped off the bats of both men as the help Nottinghamshire had hoped to draw from the conditions on a cloudy, muggy morning failed to materialise. Rogers hit 26 fours, Morgan has 27 and two sixes, both off Samit Patel's left-arm spin. Naturally, there were some shots to admire but Nottinghamshire offered too many opportunities for them to tuck into. Adams had bowled Dawid Malan with a lovely delivery that straightened to hit the top of off-stump and Harry Gurney had Neil Dexter caught at first slip soon afterwards but moments in which the bowlers had the upper hand were rare.
If Nottinghamshire's bowling looked below par at times then their fielding was none too clever either. Wessels spilled the biggest chance, offered by Morgan off Gurney on 20. Wessels had bruised his hand taking his first catch and left the field for attention immediately but Mick Newell, the Nottinghamshire head coach, said it did not excuse the drop.
There was no forgiving Patel, either, when he missed Rogers on 89 at second slip off Peter Siddle, even though it was a more difficult one, to his left and travelling.
Nottinghamshire fought back a little with the second new ball, which Siddle in particular made better use of than the first one, dismissing Joe Denly via a catch at second slip and uprooting John Simpson's off stump.
The Championship pennant has not been hoisted at Lord's since 1993, the last of seven titles won during Don Bennett's tenure as coach. The flags at Trent Bridge flew at half-mast to mark Bennett's passing this week at the age of 80 and the players of both sides honoured his memory with a minute's silence before play began. It might just have been a moment of inspiration for the visiting side.
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