Murtagh six presses Middlesex bid
Middlesex 505 and 220 for 5 (Rogers 48) lead Nottinghamshire 392 (Patel 77, Wessels 71, Murtagh 6-93) by 333 runs
Middlesex will ask Tim Murtagh for more of the same after their Ireland international quick bowler took five wickets in an innings for the third time this season to create a platform upon which their batsmen have built a position to dictate terms on the final day.
Nottinghamshire avoided the follow on but Murtagh's 6 for 93 enabled Middlesex to secure a first-innings lead of 113 to which they added enough runs to rule a home victory out of the potential outcomes.
On a day of ebbs and flows, that unlikely turn of events did at one stage look a possibility as Peter Siddle at last showed something of his international quality and Andre Adams claimed the potentially crucial wicket of Chris Rogers for rather fewer than his first-innings 180.
But a partnership of measured resolve late in the day from John Simpson and Paul Stirling has stretched Middlesex's advantage and Rogers must now decide how much time is enough time for Murtagh, Steven Finn and Toby Roland-Jones, perhaps with help from Ravi Patel, to take 10 wickets.
To emerge with even a draw would be an achievement for Nottinghamshire, given that they conceded 505 in the first innings. They at least showed some character in making sure Middlesex would need to bat a second time.
At 164 for 4 on the second afternoon, that had seemed a distant prospect and still looked unlikely when Samit Patel, who had played beautifully in scoring 75 by Sunday's close, top-edged an early attempt at a hook, leaving Nottinghamshire still 244 runs behind with half their wickets gone.
The day was cool and the light so gloomy that the floodlights were on throughout, but Chris Read and Riki Wessels applied themselves diligently and adding 72 runs in the next hour, remaining in charge through a disappointing new ball spell from Finn to be only 23 runs shy of their target when the impressive Murtagh hit Read's middle stump.
Siddle fell to Murtagh's next delivery and Wessels, who had played well for his 71, was taken superbly at slip by a diving Dawid Malan. But Andre Adams, with his customary all-or-nothing view of how to tackle a crisis, heaved his first ball over long-on for six and hit the next high over midwicket and, with Luke Fletcher firing 40 off 42 balls, Nottinghamshire avoided being asked to bat again. Murtagh's half-dozen took his tally for the season to 30 wickets.
"I've felt in good rhythm all season," Murtagh said afterwards. "I've not been playing Twenty20 so it has been a little bit stop-start where I like to bowl a lot of overs because I feel I get better the more I bowl.
"It was nice to get some wickets to put us in a good position. We stuck to our guns on a pretty good wicket and got our rewards in the end. And there was a bit more variable bounce for their bowlers in those last two sessions, which was encouraging for us going into the last day. If there is some up and down movement it will make our job easier.
"They did well enough to get themselves back into the game, which made the partnership at the end very important going into tomorrow, although we will want to add a few more."
Malan and Rogers added 46 in quick time, but another shift in the flow of the contest saw Malan bowled shouldering arms to Harry Gurney and Rogers edging behind as Adams found lift and late movement. Then Siddle produced his best spell to dismiss Eoin Morgan and Neil Dexter, before Harry Gurney, in his follow-through, deflected a Simpson drive to run out Joe Denly at the non-striker's end.
Now it was for Simpson and Stirling to show some resolve, which they needed in the circumstances with the wicket beginning to show signs of wear. In a way their contribution was as important as the much more substantial scores supplied by Rogers and Morgan in the first innings, keeping Middlesex with their hand on the controls.