Middlesex v Lancashire, Lord's, 2nd day June 22, 2006

More misery for Middlesex

Middlesex 161 (Nash 52*, Cork 4-61) and 47 for 1 (Smith 31*, Peploe 4*) trail Lancashire 505 (Hodge 161, Chilton 93, Sutton 72, Hogg 70, Styris 6-71) by 297 runs

Dominic Cork was again in the wickets for Lancashire at Lord's © Getty Images
These are depressing times for Middlesex. Last week they crashed for 49 against Nottinghamshire, Ben Hutton is out with shingles and was on the verge of dropping himself anyway, they have and injury list as long as, well, England's, and have been forced into playing Paul Weekes who has been told won't get an extension to his contract. Matches come so thick and fast during the season that once a slump sets in it can quickly infect an entire campaign. Middlesex are looking terminally sick.

Lancashire gorged themselves on a pitch full of runs, but as soon as Ed Smith and Nick Compton took guard it looked a different surface. Smith was trapped plumb in front by Dominic Cork's second ball, a full swinging delivery, and Smith's problems are symptomatic of his team's. This was his four duck in seven innings and his eighth single figure score in 14 knocks. He is still capable of scoring elegant centuries, but is far removed from the batsman who filled his boots at Kent and earned an England call in 2003.

As he had done last week against Warwickshire, Cork caused plenty of problems with the new ball. Compton, who later had the ignominy of falling twice in the day, was done neck and crop by one that nipped back - and hinted at keeping a fraction low - then Eoin Morgan fended a lifter to second slip. The Middlesex seamers, barring a determined morning spell from Mohammad Ali, had struggled to get the ball off straight.

Of the top order only Owais Shah suggested any sort of permanency. He threaded a couple of trademark drives but was also prone to the lazy waft. When the third wicket fell Shah just stood forlornly at the non-striker's end, but was quickly making is own way back to the pavilion when he left a nip-backer from Tom Smith that clipped the off stump.

Cork nearly had his fourth when Scott Styris's flying edge was palmed away by Smith at second slip but he ended his first spell with the fine figures of 10-1-37-3, continuing his impressive record at Lord's. In 2004 he took 7 for 120 for Lancashire and he will forever be associated with the history of the ground after his match-winning efforts against West Indies in 1995 and 2000.

Stryis, after the left-off, went for his shots but there was a sense of helplessness about his strokeplay. Kyle Hogg trapped him in front and when Gary Keedy struck with his first ball - as Paul Weekes bottom edged an attempted slog-sweep - three figures was again looking doubtful at 80 for 6.

A feisty half-century from David Nash, in just his second Championship match in two seasons, at least provided momentary relief and should have made the top order sit up and take note. When a team is in the mire it is the little moments that can highlight the malaise. The way Chris Silverwood and Ali slogged away their wickets, while Nash was still at the crease, were the sign of a team that is coming apart at the seams.

Lancashire had earlier progressed serenely through most of the morning session, extending their overnight 359 for 5 with a stand of 117 between Hogg and Luke Sutton. The pace wasn't exhilarating but suited Lancashire's purpose just right as they moved into a position from which they'd hope not to need to bat again. Sutton nudged and nurdled his second fifty for the club while Hogg unleashed some shots of real class, including a pick-up six over the legside, in his highest first-class score.

The innings withered away once the stand was broken, the last five falling for 38 runs, with Scott Styris finishing with a Championship best haul. But if Middlesex had taken that as a sign of a change in fortune they were badly wrong. Things can still get worse before they get better.

Andrew McGlashan is editorial assistant of Cricinfo