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Middlesex sneak it to leave Warwickshire adrift

Middlesex 334 (Eskinazi 178*) and 234 for 9 ( Compton 49, Higgins 45) beat Warwickshire 334 (Clarke 83, Lamb 51) and 233 (Trott 99, Helm 5-59) by one wicket
Scorecard

A match that might have finished in an historic tie just went the way of Middlesex after a tense and absorbing conclusion, providing the defending champions with only a second win of the season and the hope that they might yet claw back more of the space that opened up between them and leaders Essex with last week's thumping defeat at Chelmsford.

None of the ties in first-class cricket has featured identical totals in both innings, yet that prospect was on the cards here as Middlesex, who had looked as though they would reach their target comfortably while Nick Compton and John Simpson were together, began to lose wickets with disconcerting regularity in the post-lunch session.

Warwickshire fought as you would expect from a side desperate for a win and stand-in captain Jonathan Trott was never without an idea that might make something happen, but they are now 48 points adrift from safety,

They gave themselves a substantial shot of hope and adrenalin before lunch when Jeetan Patel managed, seemingly against all probability, to draw Compton out of his crease and had him stumped.

Until that moment, Middlesex looked in command, needing 112 with six wickets in hand. Yet Warwickshire, who have not enjoyed too many good moments in a largely dismal season, used that wicket as a motivational factor and had a fresh determination as they emerged for the afternoon session.

Ryan Higgins at first maintained Middlesex's momentum but Warwickshire somehow kept themselves in it. A fine catch by William Porterfield, diving forward from gully, removed Simpson off Rikki Clarke. And from 170-6, needing 64, Middlesex stumbled three more times.

James Harris was unable to get out of the way of a super ball from Boyd Rankin - among a mixed bag of a performance, it has to be said - and gave a catch behind at 193-7, Higgins popped up a bat-pad short-leg catch off Patel at 210-8 and, tantalising Warwickshire fans even more, Ollie Rayner stepped across one from Rankin to be leg before, leaving his side nine down with seven still required.

Tim Murtagh and Tom Helm kept their nerve admirably, however, taking four singles off Clarke before Murtagh found a gap on the offside against Rankin and took three runs to the longer boundary.

Dawid Malan, Middlesex's acting captain, believed the key phase of the match had been the last session on day three, when Tom Helm dismissed Trott for 99 and rapidly cleaned up the tail, leaving Warwickshire at least 20 or 30 runs short of where they had hoped to be.

"I think the way Tom plus Tim Murtagh and Ryan Higgins bowled at the end of day three - their spell set it up for us because at tea they had been in the driving seat and we probably bowled them out for a lot less than they should have got," Malan said.

"We desperately needed that win. We haven't been playing our best cricket so far and have not been able to string four good days together.

"We have won two and lost two of our last four which is disappointing on the loss side because we pride ourselves on being hard to beat, but positive on the winning side.

"To get a win moving forward with guys due to come back from injury and England duty when the Championship starts again we are in a good position to get a few wins in a row and be pushing for the top."

The concern for Warwickshire, of course, is about finding a way somehow to get away from the bottom, although with only six matches left time is running out.

Yet coach Jim Troughton still believes his team's character remains intact, even though results suggest that time is catching up with some of the senior members of their dressing room.

"Yes, we probably need to win at least half our remaining games but in 2010 we needed to win four out of five and if there is one thing you can always say this team has been good at, over the years of winning trophies and getting to finals and bringing this club a lot of success, it is being up for it in the big games that matter.

"We always knew that we were hitting a period of transition and that this season was going to be tough and we've had some performances this season we have not been proud of, where we have crumbled under pressure or drifted through sessions.

"But this is a league in which anyone can beat anyone. Somerset have shown that up at Scarborough. And in this game we have gone toe to toe with a good side so we have to take positives from that.

"We need to keep asking questions of the older players. We need to compete over all four days of games and to walk off at the end of the game knowing we have given everything and (on this occasion) I don't need to question that."

He could not question the passion of some of those players, either, as was evident in the scenes on the third evening, before and after Stevie Eskinazi was dismissed for a duck - the score at which Warwickshire had been convinced he was out in the first innings before going on to score the match-winning individual score.

The umpires had to intervene, asking Rikki Clarke and Keith Barker in particular to calm down, giving Trott another challenge as captain he might not have bargained for. Troughton admitted the incident had been a cause for concern.

"We had a chat with the umpires and recognised that the passion probably bubbled over a little bit," he said.

"Our members maybe sometimes ask where's the fight, where's the passion in our team. They definitely saw it there but to people watching without knowing the context it does not look great. So we talked about being competitive and hitting them hard but not stepping over the line."

Middlesex 4th innings Partnerships

WktRunsPlayers
1st0NRD ComptonSD Robson
2nd1NRD ComptonSS Eskinazi
3rd53NRD ComptonDJ Malan
4th25NRD ComptonPR Stirling
5th43NRD ComptonJA Simpson
6th48JA SimpsonRF Higgins
7th23JAR HarrisRF Higgins
8th17OP RaynerRF Higgins
9th17OP RaynerTG Helm
10th7TJ MurtaghTG Helm