Middlesex v Derbyshire, Lord's, 3rd day June 1, 2008

Derbyshire still in hunt for victory

Derbyshire 244 and 260 for 9 (Clare 46*, Murtagh 4-70) lead Middlesex 262 by 242 runs

It is still too close to pick a winner at Lord's after Derbyshire's lower order added valuable runs on a truncated third day. With half the side out they were only 73 ahead, but Middlesex couldn't wrap up the innings. Jonathan Clare, Charl Langeveldt and a stubborn effort from John Sadler, kept the visitors in the hunt for victory and extended the lead to 242 before bad light ended the day.

This has been a fascinating, and hard-fought, Championship encounter where the ball has had the edge on a pitch that has encouraged the quicker bowlers. That has made for a keen contest, where neither side has been able to grasp the advantage for very long. In such a match, lower-order runs can be the deciding factor.

Clare survived a short-pitched attack from Vernon Philander and Dirk Nannes which had him in some trouble. He was struck on the glove and shoulder in the space of three balls by Philander - keeping the Derbyshire physio on his toes - and also ducked into another short ball. He was far more assured when deliveries were pitched up, bringing out two sweet on-drives. Clare's runs were priceless as the lead grew over 200 and Ed Smith had to start spreading his field.

Langeveldt's contribution was in true tail-ender style as he flung the bat at anything in his half, a few balls that weren't as well. He launched Shaun Udal for six over a long boundary at deep midwicket, and managed an interesting shot when he charged down the pitch at Tim Murtagh, sending a looping top edge over mid-off. At times the Middlesex bowlers became carried away with the short-pitched attack and it was Udal who ended Langeveldt's fun, with Ben Scott claiming his eighth dismissal of the match. However, Langeveldt's merry hitting has given him a little extra to bowl to.

That chance will come on the final day as bad light - which, not for the first time this season, didn't appear particularly bad - prevented any play after tea. Middlesex, though, will be feeling they could have wrapped this match up in three days.

They put themselves in the driving seat during the morning with a burst of three wickets for 10 runs. Dan Birch was caught behind off Philander, then Murtagh produced an impressive spell from the Nursery End. He trapped Rikki Clarke lbw with one that skidded through and removed the uncertain Freddie Klokker as Derbyshire lurched to 91 for 5.

Nannes took over from Murtagh after lunch and bowled a lively spell. He crunched Wagg a painful blow on the right hand and he fell two balls later after after an important steadying 41. Nannes also causing plenty of problems for Sadler who played a painstaking innings, tasking 100 balls to reach 20, but it was crucial for Derbyshire that he held the innings together. He eventually came out of his shell with a straight six off Udal - caught on the players' balcony by coach John Morris - before falling shortly afterwards with a low edge to first slip as Murtagh returned to the attack.

Andrew McGlashan is a staff writer at Cricinfo