Middlesex v Somerset, Uxbridge, 1st day July 7, 2014

Malan profits from Somerset slips

Tim Wigmore at Uxbridge

Middlesex 211 for 4 (Malan 90*) v Somerset

No county in recent years has been more haunted by missed opportunities than Somerset. So four missed chances on the opening day at Uxbridge will imbue the side with regret.

Some optimistic Somerset supporters were overheard plotting a trip to Headingley in the final round, in anticipation of a Championship shoot-out. That is a scenario few would have envisaged after Somerset's bleak 2013. But, after leading the table halfway through the season, their Championship challenge has since faltered with a first defeat at Trent Bridge and the failure to finish Lancashire off at Taunton. This game thus assumed a critical air.

While Somerset bowled admirably once again, the satisfaction would have been tempered by the feeling that they had failed to twist the knife into a Middlesex side that seemed vulnerable. Four victories in their first six Championship games has been followed by only 34 points in their last four.

The strength of Middlesex's batting has rested on Sam Robson and Chris Rogers, a combination who have ensured copious "R and R" for their teammates. In the circumstances, with Robson absent on England duty and Rogers dismissed early by the sprightly Lewis Gregory, Middlesex may have felt in need of generosity from the opposition. And they certainly received it: Nick Gubbins, impressing again in lieu of Robson, was shelled by Trescothick in the slips off Peter Trego; and Trego then missed a sharp return chance off Dawid Malan.

But it was Eoin Morgan to whom Somerset were most obliging. He was spilled by Alviro Petersen off Alfonso Thomas in the slips when he had yet to score, and then by stand-in wicket keeper Alex Barrow on 8 after a sharp lifter from Craig Overton. Batsmen of Morgan's repute are meant to be unforgiving after such lapses. Instead Morgan flicked Trego tamely to extra cover, prompting celebrations oozing relief.

Trego's repute is for his spectacular array of tattoos, and brash hitting in keeping with the image. By comparison his bowling is remarkably undemonstrative - seaming the ball at speeds less than many cars on the motorway that borders Uxbridge cricket ground. Not that it is any less effective for that as he showed in a probing spell after showers had permeated the pitch with more moisture. He followed Morgan's scalp with Neil Dexter lbw: Middlesex may have been relieved when further showers terminated the day for good.

Still, perhaps those feelings weren't shared by Malan. While Gubbins and Morgan made only 25 runs from their total of three extra lives, Malan has so far added 35 to his let-off on 55.

It means that he will begin tomorrow unbeaten on 90. The ten runs he needs to reach three figures have often seemed a burden for Malan. He was twice dismissed in the 90s this season before ending his wait for a Championship ton - stretching back to August 2012 - with 154 not out against Northants last week. "I definitely had the nervous nineties," Malan admitted after the innings. "It really didn't feel like I was going to get out of them to be honest."

Here Malan provided reaffirmation of his striking talent, mixing languid extra cover drives - one off George Dockrell had the festivalgoers purring - with rasping cuts.

Should he reach his century, Somerset will have further cause to rue their catching prolificacy. Yet it did not detract from a fine bowling effort. Four right-arm pace bowlers may hint at a lack of variety, but it is not something that bothers Director of Cricket David Nosworthy. "They might all be right-arm over the wicket, but I think their skills are very different", he said. "Craig Overton gets a lot of extra bounce, Alfonso Thomas has the skill of swinging it both ways, Peter Trego just nibbles away in different areas and Lewis Gregory has the ability to bowl a really quick bouncer and swings it away. So there is a lot of difference within the make-up."

He is borne out by the statistics: all five of Somerset's bowlers in this game, including George Dockrell, average 28 or under this season. They would be entitled to ask how much better those averages would be with trustier friends in the outfield.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • John on July 8, 2014, 7:49 GMT

    Thanks for the heads up on Kies.

    Personally I think the title chances have already gone. For me the draws against Lancs hurt more than the defeat to Notts because at least Notts outplayed us (albeit it was pretty much settled on day 1) whereas the Lancs draws felt bad as we were well on top in both - especially the 1st. To be honest I don't really care about being thereabouts. We've been on and off thereabouts for several years now. If we don't win it (and I doubt we have much chance) then 2nd or 5th makes no odds to me. By the way did anyone else notice the crazy scheduling - see my post on the Hants T20 game

  • Martin on July 7, 2014, 20:47 GMT

    @JG2704 I think Kieswetter was attending a family funeral. Shame about the dropped catches - now we're picking a balanced attack we look capable of taking 20 wickets consistently for the first time in a few years.

  • Chris on July 7, 2014, 19:57 GMT

    I think Kies was attending a funeral.. Normally Barrow provides excellent wicket-keeping cover so it was surprise to see him spill that chance..not sure about the byes though. Overton was apparently getting a lot of steep bounce which meant Barrow was jumping around all over the place. Not giving up this game just yet though..The Middlesex tail looks long and unlikely to wag too fiercely and the pitch doesn't seem to be as flat and batsman friendly as expected. If Middx fold before lunch (which isn't that unlikely) the game will be on again...agree about the Lancs games though; stymied by the weather and then a dull and lifeless pitch and, ok, a bit of Lancs fight)...could be crucial come the end of the season. And equally annoying Yorkshire appear to playing quite well at the moment too.

  • Dummy4 on July 7, 2014, 19:47 GMT

    Our seasons firmly rests with the two games against Northants. IF we get 8 days of cricket and force the likely two wins then these draws should not hurts us too much. We might need one more win elsewhere, but good draws and no defeats will see us there or there abouts at the end. Obviously wins against Lancs would have been beneficial as well...

  • John on July 7, 2014, 18:14 GMT

    Rain again will also help determine the title race.

    The problem is that in rain hit matches because we are not as aggressive with the bat we are even less likely to be able to force results as Yorks and Notts so I'd already say that the best we can hope for is a draw. I think the 2 draws with Lancs - one due to Lancs fight and the other due to the weather gods - have already realistically damaged our title hopes along with the Notts defeat. PS anyone know what happened to Kies

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