Middlesex v Somerset, Uxbridge, 2nd day July 8, 2014

Compton, Finn show international class

Tim Wigmore at Uxbridge

Somerset 153 for 4 (Compton 58*, Hildreth 53) trail Middlesex 338 (Malan 134, Stirling 56, Overton 4-84) by 185 runs

A year ago, Nick Compton and Steven Finn would not have envisaged spending these four days at Uxbridge. They would have anticipated playing against India at Trent Bridge tomorrow.

Even with a schedule that may be the most absurd in cricketing history - five Tests in 42 days - it seems inconceivable that England will find use for either against India. Perhaps there is more depth in the English game than many realise.

Finn began Somerset's innings with a spell of snarling, aggressive fast bowling. His default length was short of good, but not unthinkingly so. So accurate was Finn that he made it difficult for the batsmen to refrain from playing.

Within four overs, Finn had two wickets, including Marcus Trescothick prodding at a sharp lifter. He also had Trescothick dropped in the slips. This was a fast bowler letting rip. It was also exactly why Finn elicited such enthusiasm among England followers.

After England had capitulated to Mitchell Johnson at Brisbane, Nick Compton tweeted a photo of his backward defensive. It might be a distinctly unglamorous shot, but it is a non-negotiable against Finn in this mood. And Compton played it copious times as he withstood Finn's opening burst.

"I had to strip things back a bit," Compton reflected. "Steven's a quality bowler and he's come back to form and was charging in there. It got my juices going. You don't often find that in first-class cricket when you have someone of his pace running in and getting it above your head. So that was exciting and it was nice to get into that battle."

That Compton certainly did: 86 balls into his innings and he was still short of 20. If it was not exhilarating, it was enthralling. And it was exactly what Somerset required after the debris of 28 for 3, still 310 runs behind.

Middlesex had good reason to feel stung. When Eoin Morgan's neck suffered an unwelcome encounter with a bee, Paul Stirling replaced him in the slips. On 16, Compton nicked a delivery from Neil Dexter to him: it seemed regulation enough, but was less so to an auxiliary slip fielder.

Compton soon unfurled a more expansive array of shots, including some pristine hooks. When he reached his half-century, he promptly drove Ravi Patel for a straight four down the ground, as if to affirm that he will return with the intention of adding plenty to his unbeaten 58 tomorrow.

Still, Compton's innings would have counted for far less had it not been for James Hildreth. While Compton left with impeccable judgment, Hildreth counter-attacked with grace and gusto, scoring 48 of the first 55 runs in their partnership, including 16 off 16 deliveries he faced from Finn. Some exquisite drives were a reminder that there exists few more aesthetically pleasing players on the county circuit. It was an innings that promised far more than being terminated at 53, clean bowled by Dexter.

When Middlesex reached 203 for 2 on Monday evening, their innings also promised far more than it delivered. But, after an erratic display on the first day, Craig Overton showed why he is held in such regard by Somerset. Though he is slightly slower, Overton extracted bounce to rival that of Finn: quite a feat for someone who regards himself as a batting allrounder.

The upshot was four wickets in the day and a reminder of the damage that well-directed short bowling can afflict on a batting tail. But it was a fuller delivery that got the crucial wicket of Stirling, as 319 for 6 - a position from which Middlesex could eye a first innings score to come close to the ground's average of 478 - rapidly became 338 all out.

Stirling has been regarded as a limited-overs specialist at Middlesex, despite the evidence of quality provided by two ODI centuries for Ireland against Pakistan. As he produced some attractive offside punches and late cuts, it was odd to reflect that this was only his fourth Championship game. But with three half-centuries in four innings this season, he has belatedly established his position in the side. It seems inconceivable that Stirling can remain at No. 7 in Middlesex's order for long.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • John on July 9, 2014, 9:32 GMT

    @CricketingStargazer/Dave Brown - I'd say that as it stands the draw must be firm favourite. Personally I don't think Nick is in the form he was of the past couple of years and I'd say Lyth should be the next in line. I've said a few times that I think Compton needs to be averaging significantly higher than his rivals for the spot. Think his time has gone. The BBC weather forecast seems to be cloudy so I'm not sure how it will pan out. I think for Somerset to win they'd need to bat all day and get a lead and hope to bowl Middx out tomorrow. The one positive is that our lower order have contributed well this season and if they score well they also score fast so fingers crossed The one good thing id that it looks unlikely Yorks will be able to force a result unless there are sporting declaraions. As it stands I guess Notts/Warwicks will be the happiest teams with this set of games

  • Dummy4 on July 9, 2014, 7:02 GMT

    Time to unfurl that classic cricketing cliche... the first half an hour, or indeed the first session, will be critical. If Middlesex take wickets then Somerset will be staring defeat in the face; If Somerset bat get to lunch for the addition of 100 runs for the lose of 1 wicket, then who knows? THe only way i can see Somerset forcing the win is if we bat big and go past their total. Even matchung their score will unlikely leave enough time to bowl them out and then knock of the runs - who knows though funnier things have happened. As for today, i am still unsure about Jones. It seems like he has been around for years and some how managed to remain a "promising young player" without ever really delivering. Granted he played well against Notts in a losing cause and Yorkshire at the start of the season but not much else inbetween. With him and Barrow (Doing well so far but needs to push on) in the side our batting does look weak. Especially when Hildreth flatters to decieve as always.

  • Mark on July 9, 2014, 6:39 GMT

    JG, it sounds as if rain may have the last word here anyway, but once the follow-on is saved this will all come down to Nick Compton. If he can join Steven Crook in scoring a century off his old club Somerset will be somewhere close to parity and, although the draw will be strong favourite, the only side that will have a conceivable route to victory will be Somerset, I suspect.

    With a lead under 50, were two or three wickets to go down early in the Middlesex reply, suddenly it would be a different game. It's unlikely, but not impossible.

    I would like to see Nick Compton make a big hundred. Just remind the selectors who he is and the fact that England haven't had a century opening partnership (and very few of 50) since they discarded him.

  • John on July 8, 2014, 23:04 GMT

    Middlesex's day I'd say.

    It was good to get through the late order quick when at one time they looked like scoring 400+ but disappointing to lose Alviro and Tres in particular. I like Nick alot and part of me thinks he'sthe ideal man to have out there to save the game but I'd love us to push forward and try and win. We could do with some decent contributions from our lower order players like Trego,Overton and Gregoryif we are to get ahead of the game. It could go one way or the other tomorrow. If our lower order/tail wags we could get on level terms or thereabouts. If it doesn't we could be in a heap of trouble.

  • Dummy4 on July 8, 2014, 21:29 GMT

    Sounds like Morgan was hanging around an RCB!

  • No featured comments at the moment.