Franklin excited by Finn title boost

Warwickshire 172 and 120 for 4 drew with Middlesex 242 and 267 for 7 dec (Robson 74, Eskinazi 53)

Middlesex remain the Division One leaders but by less of a margin than that with which they began after the weather ultimately left them frustrated at it did Yorkshire.

As they seek to stay in front and win the County Championship title for the first time since 1993, Middlesex now lead Yorkshire by four points, down from five, this match called off as a draw after bad light forced the players off following just 56 minutes of action, the first two sessions having been lost to rain.

The results mean that the likelihood of the final round of the season, in which Yorkshire have to go to Lord's, being the deciding round is slightly greater, although if either side is to seize a clear advantage before then it is Yorkshire, with their next two matches at home, who look the more likely.

Middlesex are away for their next two, against Nottinghamshire and Lancashire, although their chances there will be boosted by the return to their attack of Steven Finn from injury and fellow seamer Tim Murtagh from international duty. Finn has been out of action since suffering a hamstring injury on the final day of England's fourth Test defeat to Pakistan three weeks ago.

"Having Steven back will be a real boost," Middlesex captain James Franklin said. "We all know what he can do if he is on song and he is champing at the bit to be back playing cricket and maybe helping us push for the title."

Franklin, who will be leader on the field for the remainder of the campaign with Adam Voges unable to return, admitted the possibility of winning the title is adding an extra buzz in the dressing room but stressed that keeping their advantage would be tough.

"I'd be lying if I said there was not talk in the group about the title but we know there are still 72 points available and it is not only about ourselves and Yorkshire, with Somerset still hunting," he said. "Twelve days is a lot of cricket to be played and every game in this division is tough whether you are playing teams at the bottom of the table or in contention at the top. We know we are going to have to play very good cricket in those 12 days if we are to come out on top."

At Edgbaston, it seemed unlikely any play would be possible as rain teemed down throughout the scheduled morning session, leaving puddles on the outfield. But a dry interlude allowed some intensive mopping up and had the light been good enough the minimum 36 overs left when play began at 3.45pm may well have been bowled, perhaps a few more with spin used at both ends.

They had intended to give Warwickshire a burst of Toby Roland-Jones at the start but with the floodlights on they were obliged to bowl off-spinner Ollie Rayner and left-arm spinner Ravi Patel in tandem from the start or risk leaving the field earlier still.

In the event, it was debatable whether Middlesex would have been able to claim six more wickets to win the match. Rayner managed to winkle out Chris Wright, the nightwatchman, with the last ball of his fourth over but Ian Bell and Sam Hain used their feet well against the turning ball and had kept their wickets intact for 11.4 overs more when umpires David Millns and Martin Saggers decided the floodlights were providing more illumination than the natural light.

Asked whether Middlesex might have given themselves a better chance had they pushed on towards a declaration position more quickly on the third day, captain James Franklin admitted it was a tricky decision.

"The overhead conditions made it more difficult on Friday and I think Warwickshire bowled pretty well at us," he said. "We felt we had to get to a certain point before we could really kick on.

"Before that, 240, 250, 260 was well within the realms of Warwickshire and had the weather not come it would have left them a lot of time to get that, so it was a balancing act. In the end the weather had the last word anyway."

Middlesex are the only side to have beaten Yorkshire in the Championship in the last three seasons but Franklin does not believe that record will have any bearing if the meeting at Lord's on September 20 does turn out to be a winner-takes-all showdown.

"I don't think our record against Yorkshire gives us any kind of advantage," he said. "They are such a good team and they have proven that in the last two years. Obviously we would back ourselves to beat them but we can't look too far ahead.

"Before that we have two games against Nottinghamshire and Lancashire, which will not be easy. We are in with a shout (of the title) but we are going to have to play very well."