Report: Sam Curran holds Middlesex to draw

Fifties from Sam Curran and Ben Foakes held off Middlesex on the final day of their County Championship meeting at Lord’s.

Many are the batsmen that have failed to add significantly to an overnight score; rather fewer are those that have failed to add significantly to overnight centuries; even fewer are those that have not done so twice in a match. On Saturday, Kumar Sangakkara added a mere single before edging Franklin to Rayner for 114; on Monday he added all of four runs before edging the same bowler to Simpson.

It nevertheless meant that Sangakkara had scored runs on each of the four days in the match, on what could yet be his final appearance at Lord’s. If it proves to be so, what better way to sign off?

Almost as if sensing the opening that his departure offered Middlesex in the game, even the angle-grinders in the Warner Stand ceased their ear-assaulting screeching. The Surrey lead stood at a mere 112, with the first non-specialist batsman at the crease.

Any Middlesex hopes that this would open the game up were quelled by Sam Curran and Ben Foakes’ partnership of 83 for the sixth wicket, only ended on the stroke of lunch when Curran nicked Rayner behind for his first scalp of the match. They were aided by the curious decision of Franklin to postpone taking of the new ball until the 95th over. With the old ball offering no appreciable movement, and Middlesex well up with the over rate, there seemed little obvious reason to persist with Rayner, who till that point had found little turn from the pitch. Sam Curran found Rayner to his liking, driving the off-spinner over long-off into the Pavilion for six.

That being said, the new ball also offered little to the bowlers. While Curran was the beneficiary of the decision to not include a third slip – Finn being the unfortunate bowler on two occasions – by and large there was limited movement either off the pitch or in the air, and consequently few alarms. Rayner briefly livened up proceedings by bowling Tom Curran through the gate for a spirited 22 – Curran being caught out by one that did, for once, turn, but the Surrey tail resisted in a way they had not done in the first innings, ensuring that within an hour or so after lunch the game was already heading towards handshakes.

Much of this was down to the resistance of Foakes, who was content to quietly survive. In the first forty-five minutes after lunch, he scored all of five runs, building pressure through time-consumption while his colleagues built it through run-contribution. He was left unbeaten on 67 after Malan’s part-time leg-spin cleaned up Meaker, whose off-stump was pegged back by a traditional leg-break, and Footitt, who chipped his second ball to cover.

Middlesex’s intentions as regards pursuing their target of 242 in 39 overs were called into question by the retention of Compton in his opening position. After Gubbins fell early, caught behind off Sam Curran – a decision he did not look entirely happy with – Middlesex were content to trundle along to 13-1 at tea, with 33 overs remaining. A trickle of runs followed after the interval, and although there was late excitement when Compton swiped Footitt to deep square-leg, both teams agreed to take the points for the draw soon after 5pm.

Report: West Indians recall that winning feeling

West Indians (335-4, 50.0) beat Middlesex CCC (107-9 all out, 31.0) by 228 runs

Wednesday 15th June 2012
By Liam Cromar at Lord’s

Gayle may grab the headlines, but it was Dwayne Smith and Darren Bravo who made the strongest cases for selection, as the touring West Indians crushed an inexperienced Middlesex side by upwards of 200 runs. Of late, the sensation of completely dominating a match has been rare for this side, but today everything clicked into place. Even the English weather smiled upon the West Indians.

It’s probably fair to say that the most anticipated innings of the day was Chris Gayle’s first back in West Indian colours. He quickly showed himself to be in fine form, reserving especial punishment for Murtagh, who toiled away from the Media Centre End, only to watch Gayle dispatching him for leg-side boundaries with typical lazy disdain. For all the early fireworks, though, he did not last as long as would have been hoped, holing out to deep mid-wicket for a relatively modest 38. Perhaps the IPL dial needs to yet be turned down a notch or two.


The real work of the innings, therefore, fell upon nos. 3 and 4, Darren Bravo and Dwayne Smith. With the pitch appearing totally innocuous, batting was simply a matter of not getting too excited and making silly errors. Smith and Bravo hardly offered a single chance in their century stand. As the innings progressed into early afternoon, the foot was increasingly pressed down on the accelerator, as the pair, already progressing at a healthy 4- or 5- an over, launched the West Indians towards a mammoth total. Smith, when only four from a century, finally made an error, driving straight at mid-on; he nonetheless received a standing ovation from the Pavilion. Pollard, in at 5, made 18 quickly, but didn’t last long, leaving the two Bravos to complete the final touches. Not that they were delicate touches: Dwayne Bravo raced to 40*, while Darren Bravo (112*) reached his century and then completed the innings with a flurry of sixes, including one off the last ball, leading his team to an imposing 335-4.

Middlesex’s reply, by contrast, started badly and got worse. Stumbling to 15-2 in 7 overs, they continued to lose wickets, and at 38-4, were already out of it. Davey (24*), together with Smith (16), put up a little resistance, avoiding Middlesex the ignominy of a double-figure total, but Smith fell in Gayle’s first over. Having somehow got away with apparently reverse-sweeping Gayle straight to slip – Sammy injected some humour into the dispute by signalling for a TV replay – Gayle sent the next ball through his defences, bowling him to provide a certain moral justice. Gayle also went on to remove the new batsman in the same over, showing rare animation in his celebrations. The double strike left Gayle with impressive bowling figures on his return – a double-wicket maiden.

To be fair to Middlesex, their side was certainly not a first-string XI, having chosen to field several youngsters in preparation for the T20 tournament, and not having their England stars Morgan and Finn available for selection. They would, nonetheless, have hoped to resist better; Stirling, for instance, after his CB40 122-ball 119 on Sunday, would have hoped for better than 1, although his bowling figures were exemplary (7-0-26-1). Murtagh, also, after his call-up to the Ireland squad, would not have been happy with his ten expensive overs (10-0-75-1). The worst moment, was, sadly, when their young bowler Robbie Williams dived onto his shoulder for a catch and had to be helped off the field, suffering a broken collarbone. Middlesex will hope he is able to recover quickly from his unfortunate injury.

A group of West Indian children in the Compton Stand, having been chanting “Bra-vo” during the Bravo-Bravo partnership, apparently heard my companion’s muttered injunction to ‘at least be specific’, and switched to a chant of “D, M, Bra-vo”. Sterner tests will be ahead, but they, the Bravos, the rest of the West Indian supporters, and the West Indian team themselves, will take heart from this fine performance.

Decision

– a pleasant day out, but nothing of a contest.

Report: Young sets up comfortable Gloucestershire victory

Middlesex Panthers (157-8, 26.0) lost by 5 wickets to Gloucestershire Gladiators (161-5, 22.2)

Monday 7th May 2012
By Liam Cromar at Lord’s

Middlesex’s start to the CB40 season proved less auspicious than their positive County Championship opening, as their total of 157-8 proved insufficient against a Gloucestershire side keen to make amends for their 1-run defeat against the Netherlands.

Riding high after the previous day’s Championship win over Worcestershire, Middlesex made four changes. The two England players Strauss and Finn made way for two other internationally-capped players, Stirling of Ireland and Collymore of the West Indies.

The start was delayed by rain arriving later than anticipated, and with the match reduced to a near-T20 26-over thrash, the Gloucestershire captain inserted Middlesex in moist and cloudy conditions. Denly and Malan struggled against the opening pair of Saxelby and Gidman, only scoring 21 runs in the 5 overs of the first Powerplay, but started to cut loose against the change bowlers. Both openers survived sharp chances, however, Denly edging through the hands of slip for a streaky boundary, and Malan’s jab back to McCarter not being taken cleanly. Denly soon departed, as he, after crunching McCarter’s first ball through the off-side for four, found his stumps rearranged the next ball.

Young, bowling from the Media Centre end, proved the most incisive weapon of the Gladiators, severely restraining the Panthers’ ability to score in the middle overs, setting back the Panthers with three key wickets. Malan was the first to fall, slicing to mid-off. Dexter never looked entirely at ease, and was lucky to survive a top-edge off Young, as he attempted a premeditated slog-sweep to leg from a ball far too far outside off for the shot. He failed to capitalise on his escape, succumbing shortly thereafter to Young for 9. Stirling consolidated with a useful 25, but looked disappointed with a tickle to the keeper. Young was chosen to deliver 6 overs, as opposed to the 5 permitted to the others, and finished with excellent figures of 6-0-26-3.

Middlesex batsman hits a ball into the off side
Late runs for Middlesex

Rebuilding from 90-5, Berg (23) and Simpson (29) averted total collapse, joining forces to see Middlesex to an average 157-8. With bowling the Middlesex strong suit, however, 158 would not be an entirely straightforward chase for the Gladiators.

As it turned out, though, despite the first-over wicket of Dent, who was trapped LBW by a Murtagh delivery that straightened back into the left-hander, Gloucestershire got off to a flier. Howell and the New Zealand international Hamish Marshall put on 53 in partnership, in just 5.2 overs. After Marshall was dismissed, there was scarcely any letup as Gloucestershire raced to 89-2 in just 10 overs, with Middlesex looking powerless to stem the flow of runs. While Rayner and Crook both struck in their opening overs, Gloucestershire, in reality, were never in trouble. The initial onslaught had reduced the required run rate to an easy 4 or 5 an over, and continually improved.

The latter part of the innings meandered on in a markedly different fashion to the beginning: although the big hitters Marshall (33), Gidman (26) and Williamson (9) had all departed, the run rate was such that singles were all that were needed, Gloucestershire finally crossing the finishing line against the bowling of Denly. The number 3 Howell was still present, remaining unbeaten on 45.

While only a limited number of findings can legitimately be extrapolated from a 26-over game, Gloucestershire leave Lord’s with no obvious weaknesses, aside from perhaps an odd propensity to falling LBW, particularly in the first over of a new bowler’s spell. Middlesex have rather more to work on, in particular their middle-order batting, and their opening-over economy rate.

Decision

– A rain-affected, rather imbalanced meeting.