Middle-order runs boost Middlesex

Middlesex 341 for 9 v Northamptonshire

Half-centuries from Sam Robson, Neil Dexter, John Simpson and Gareth Berg lifted Middlesex to 341 for 9 after they had threatened to throw away the advantage of winning the toss on a dry pitch in their County Championship clash with Northamptonshire at Lord's.

Robson and Scott Newman gave Middlesex a positive start by putting on 36 in 10 overs after they had won the toss before Jack Brooks celebrated his 26th birthday by picking up two wickets in three overs. Brooks, a fast-medium bowler from Oxfordshire who only made his first-class debut last summer, moved the ball up the hill to have Newman caught at second slip and trap Owais Shah lbw as he pushed half forward.

Dawid Malan then joined Robson in a third-wicket partnership of 51 before Chaminda Vaas, the Sri Lanka left-arm seamer who played for Middlesex in 2007, dismissed them both in successive overs. He pinned Malan leg before for 28 and then slanted one across Robson to have him caught behind after he had made 59 off 134 balls with 11 fours.

Middlesex had slumped to 108 for 4 but they were revived by Dexter, who had scored two centuries in his previous three championship matches, and Simpson, who is making a habit of scoring runs against Northamptonshire. They had put on 104 in 24 overs when Dexter, who had batted beautifully for his 61 off 70 balls with 12 fours, tried to pull a ball from Lee Daggett and was caught behind down the leg side.

Simpson also played well - and not for the first time against Northamptonshire. Having scored 87 and 41 on his debut at Wantage Road last season and 101 there in April, he made 65 off 108 balls with a six and six fours before coming unstuck against the occasional offspin of Alex Wakely. He had pulled Wakely's second ball dismissively to the midwicket boundary but scooped the third tamely to mid off.

By then, Berg was timing the ball well and he went on to make 83 off 88 balls with a six and 13 fours before he carved Daggett to deep backward point. Northamptonshire are without David Sales, who has a side strain, and Niall O'Brien, who is defying a broken finger to play Twenty20 cricket but is not playing in the championship, while Middlesex are missing Iain O'Brien, their New Zealand fast-medium bowler, with a thigh injury.

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    Half-centuries from Sam Robson, Neil Dexter, John Simpson and Gareth Berg lifted Middlesex to 341 for 9