Morgan and Rogers provide lifeline
Middlesex 223 (Morgan 82, Roland-Jones 77, Thomas 3-32, Leach 3-40) and 140 for 1 (Rogers 97*) trail Somerset 523 for 9 dec by 160 runs
Eoin Morgan demonstrated the technique and temperament that could yet render him a fine Test batsman and with it boosted Middlesex's hopes of avoiding relegation on the third day of the Championship match against Somerset at Taunton.
Morgan resisted for just short of five hours as Middlesex, who lost seven wickets in 23 overs of the second day, batted throughout Wednesday for the cost of only four more.
But this was a Morgan unrecognisable from the man who thrashed 71 in just 31 balls in the T20 against India earlier this month. This Morgan was compact, disciplined and patient in resisting a Somerset attack who had looked rampant the previous day and who continued to benefit from a pitch providing assistance to spin bowlers in particular. It was, in short, a Morgan displaying all the qualities required to prosper at Test level.
It has been a decent Championship season for Morgan. After deciding to miss the IPL in order to work on his red ball game and win a recall to the Test side, he has averaged just over 50 and made two centuries and four half-centuries in his 17 innings.
But, while you might think this was the version of Morgan the national selectors would need to see before considering selecting him, he believes that his form in the Championship is almost irrelevant at this stage of his career. Instead, he feels it is his form in international limited-overs cricket that will have more relevance.
"It is the things that I do in one-day cricket that will contribute towards me getting back in," Morgan said. "One-day cricket was my way in initially. I don't see that changing: if I'm scoring runs at international level, it helps my cause.
"It's been a reasonably good year for me in county cricket, but the international stuff hasn't come together. It just shows that county cricket is quite different to international cricket.
"But in terms of the longer form of the game, I've had time to put-in some work and I suppose I've gained some rewards for it. I've made some steps.
"But to string a full season together of Championship cricket together for me is very difficult for me. We usually play eight ODIs so in average I play five Championship games a year."
With Toby Roland-Jones, who put bat in ball in elegant and aggressive fashion in a career-best 77, Morgan batted throughout the morning session and added 130 runs. Perhaps Marcus Trescothick, at second slip, might have held a sharp chance offered by Roland-Jones off the luckless Tim Groenewald, who is not enjoying the easiest of Championship debuts for Somerset, and arguably spin might have been introduced earlier. But generally Roland-Jones feasted on anything over-pitched or short and Morgan picked off anything that strayed in length. It was fine batting.
Though both men fell just before Middlesex reached 200 - Roland-Jones, at bat-pad, to the first over of the offspin of Johann Myburg and Morgan beautifully stumped by Craig Kieswetter having been beaten by one that did not turn - the Middlesex final pair at least secured one batting bonus point. It could yet prove crucial.
And if the resistance of Morgan and Co was not enough to help Middlesex avoid the follow-on, it did, at least, force the Somerset bowlers into more spells than they would have liked and provide some belief to a Middlesex dressing room that looked devoid of the stuff the previous day.
While Sam Robson fell early once more - it is now a dozen innings and more than two months since he reached 40 - tentatively prodding half-forward to one that may have nipped back from the ageless Peter Trego, Chris Rogers demonstrated, once again, his immense worth as an overseas player.
There was, perhaps, one chance to Nick Compton at point when he had 54 and there were, certainly, another couple of nervous moments. But, on a pitch that has lost all its pace, he played the spin and swing with relative ease and resumes in the morning just three runs short of his fourth century of the Championship season.
Dawid Malan looked less comfortable against Jack Leach's left-arm spin, in particular, but by battling it out for more than two-and-a-half hours, showed the fight that Middlesex were so lacking on the second day. A draw here would place them 19 points clear of Lancashire going into the last game. It would not be safety, but it would be a significant cushion.
Meanwhile the interviews for the position of Somerset's director of cricket role continued. On Wednesday it was the turn of Matthew Maynard. A decision between Ashley Giles, Jamie Cox and Maynard is anticipated within the next few days; Giles remains the favourite, though Cox would probably be the favourite of Somerset supporters.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo