A quick fire century from Nottinghamshire captain Chris Read left Middlesex needing 519 for an unlikely win at Lord’s, a chase that they will resume in the morning one down after Sam Robson fell for a duck.
Read, the former England ‘keeper-batsman, had already played an important hand in the first innings with 62 not out. But this time rather than steadying the ship he came in with the hard work already done and blazed his way to a 76-ball ton, the second half-century coming from just nineteen deliveries. The 36-year-old was particularly feral on Paul Stirling’s off spin which was despatched for sixes over mid-wicket and square leg as an over went for 22 shortly before he reached his century and the declaration was called.
“It wasn’t quite what I was expecting at tea time”, Read said. “We came out looking to be positive for maybe 20 minutes and get as many runs as we could on the board so we could have a go at them. But a few came off the middle of the bat and before I knew it hundred was in range. I stayed out maybe a few overs longer than I would have ordinarily but there were a couple of big overs so the numbers piled on pretty quickly”.
Sixteen years on this was Read’s first Championship century at the site of the moment that defined his international career, ducking a Chris Cairns slower ball in a Test against New Zealand. He has long since more than restored his batting reputation, establishing himself as one of the most feared lower-order batsmen in the country. However, before today he had not reached three figures since April 2013 and so a start to the season that sees his average stand at 227 represents something of a return to form.
Before Read came to the crease Notts had sauntered through the day with few alarms, slowly wearing down Middlesex on an April day so unseasonably warm that the PA announcer relayed a St. John’s Ambulance warning to supporters to protect themselves from the sun. Two of Notts’ legion of internationals, James Taylor and Samit Patel, looked particularly assured during respective innings of 61 and 33 though both will be disappointed not to have gone on to a score of real substance. Alex Hales and Riki Wessels also got in and got out but with the lead already over 200 at the start of play their collective wastefulness had little impact on the state of the game.
Faced with a tough 23 over stint up to the close Middlesex got off to the worst possible of starts, Robson caught on the crease by Vernon Philander and given out lbw. Nick Gubbins and Nick Compton then bedded in, however, to ensure that Notts will need eight wickets tomorrow to wrap up the win given that Dawid Malan is out of the match with a hand injury. There have been some signs of uneven bounce as this game has gone on but Read is taking nothing for granted.
“I think the first hour tomorrow is going to be crucial”, he said. “They’ve got some very fine batsmen that we need to dislodge so first hour, put the ball in the right area and hopefully we pick up a couple of wickets”.