Twin centurions lift Middlesex
Middlesex 366 for 9 v Derbyshire 196
Neil Dexter continued to put the memory of a freak pre-season injury behind him as his measured 112 put Middlesex into a commanding position against Derbyshire at Lord's.
At the close of day two in this County Championship Second Division encounter, Dexter and Gareth Berg - who himself reached a brilliant run-a-ball 125 - had swept Middlesex into a 170-run lead at 366 for 9. Their 202-run partnership, in just 39 overs, was a sixth-wicket record for Middlesex against Derbyshire.
Dexter cracked a bone in the base of his spine early last month, when he fell heavily down some steps while putting out a bag of rubbish at his home in London, and missed Middlesex's first four Championship games - all of which were lost.
But the 25-year-old South African born former Kent batsman hit 80 in Middlesex's superb win at Sussex last week, his comeback match, and he and Berg dramatically turned this game around after seeing their side initially struggle to 126 for 5 in reply to Derbyshire's 196.
All-rounder Berg was the chief aggressor, at one stage hitting off-spinner Greg Smith for a straight four and two legside sixes from successive balls, while debutant teenage left-arm spinner Chesney Hughes also came in for some fierce treatment. Berg reached his hundred soon after Dexter, hitting three sixes and 10 fours from the 100 balls he faced to reach three figures.
Dexter's century took 166 balls, with 12 fours, and his three-and-a-half hour effort steadied Middlesex at a time when they could easily have gone the way of their opponents in cold, cloudy conditions that helped the seamers to nibble it around.
But Berg's innings was also vital for Middlesex, as he took advantage of Derbyshire's three frontline seamers tiring, plus some poor back-up bowling. The absence from this game of flu victim Robin Peterson, their South African international left-arm spinner, has hit Derbyshire hard.
Dexter eventually miscued a pull at Garry Park's medium pace and was caught at point. He had faced 180 balls in all, hitting 14 fours. But Berg went on to hit 14 fours as well as his three sixes.
For the first half of the day there was no sign of the carnage to come, with Middlesex quickly finishing off a Derbyshire first innings which resumed on 190 for 9 and then themselves finding batting hard work against Tim Groenewald, Mark Footitt and Tom Lungley.
Groenewald had Scott Newman lbw with the very first ball of the Middlesex innings and England Test captain Andrew Strauss's poor early-season form continued when he was squared up by Groenewald and edged to first slip. Strauss now has just 262 runs from 11 first-class innings at 23.81.
Owais Shah nicked a good one from Lungley, and when the lively Footitt had Dawid Malan caught, slashing to square cover, and then swung a left-armer into John Simpson's pads to have him lbw, the match was evenly balanced. How quickly it changed, though, with Dexter and Berg giving Middlesex a great opportunity to win this game some time in the next two days.