Middlesex’s first County Championship win of the season will give them confidence and momentum for the one-day campaigns ahead according to James Fuller.
The winter signing from Gloucestershire took 5-70 on his first-class debut for the Lord’s tenants as they swept aside Hampshire at Old Merchant Taylors’ School – their first Championship win on an out-ground since beating Leicestershire at Southgate in September 2007.
Taking the final six wickets on the last day to complete an innings victory was as much a battle against the weather with bad light and rain around as anything else.
Having been denied the chance of victory by the elements once or twice before already this season, New Zealander Fuller knows how vital it was to get points needed to be at the right end of the table from their last four-day encounter for almost a month.
And he believes there will be a knock-on effect when their T20 season begins against his former county at the same ground tomorrow.
“This game was massive for us and the win will give us confidence,” he said.
“We have been building since the start of the four-day campaign, getting better every game and sometimes getting into positions where we could have won but because of the weather that was taken away from us.
“That was almost the case here too where it could have ended up a draw and that would have been a real injustice, so it is huge for us to get a win.
“Because of the change in the rules the pitches are generally flatter with wickets harder to come by, so we took full advantage of a wicket that did a little bit for us.
“The win gives us impetus and for the guys who are playing both formats they will carry that sort of energy into the one-day campaign.”
Fuller acknowledged in pre-season he had been brought to Middlesex principally as a white-ball specialist in a bid to improve Middlesex’s woeful one-day record in recent years.
However, he confessed one of the attractions of a move to the home of cricket was the chance to hone his red-ball skills among exponents of the art like Tim Murtagh and Toby Roland-Jones. On this evidence at least he is a pretty fast learner.
Roland-Jones made the initial breakthrough on day four with a Jaffa of a ball which clipped the top of Joe Weatherley’s off-stump.
Thereafter he bowled without reward and it needed Fuller’s fellow Kiwi James Franklin to get the key wicket of the obdurate Jimmy Adams for 78 just before a heavy rain shower drove the players from the field for an early lunch.
After a prompt resumption and with the weather still threatening to intervene it was Fuller’s turn to shine as he removed Tino Best caught by Dawid Malan at mid-on, his second duck of the match, before having Adam Wheater pouched at slip by skipper Adam Voges – all in the space of seven balls.
Ryan McLaren (33 not not) and Mason Crane delayed the inevitable with a stand of 40 before Fuller struck again to have the latter caught at point to complete his fifer and Ollie Rayner administered the last rites having James Tomlinson caught at slip.
To the tongue-in-cheek suggestion this red-ball lark was an easier game than people thought Fuller admitted he had been lucky to find a pitch doing more than most this year and that he’d reaped the benefit of pressure created by the fellow members of the fast bowling unit.
“I’ve played enough cricket to realise you get lucky sometimes and it is nice when the ball takes the edge and goes to the slips,” he added.
“It was a nice wicket to bowl on with the red ball. It was assisting the bowlers throughout. Even around the 70th over it was moving sideways.
“We learnt from the first innings where we scored 460 and Hampshire bowled far too short and our batters took full advantage of that.
“I think the beauty of our whole bowling performance was we were applying pressure from both ends, so one of the bowlers was going to take a wicket.
“Toby bowled a couple of outstanding spells in the game where he went wicket-less, but created so many chances that the pressure was evident and the guy at the other end prospered.”
Middlesex’s maximum-points haul takes them fourth in the standings, albeit having played a game more than the three sides above them, while Hampshire suffered the further indignity of a two-point penalty for slow over-rate, meaning they travelled back south with less points than they started with.