Worcestershire’s victory charge failed to materialise at Uxbridge as Middlesex captain James Franklin added an unbeaten 91 to his first innings century before the game petered out to the tamest of draws.
At the start of the day Middlesex had led by only 64 with seven first innings wickets in hand but despite the early loss of Paul Stirling and Joe Burns’ departure for an eye-catching 87 shortly before lunch Worcestershire never really looked likely to be able to force what would have been their second win of the season.
Their best opening came at 259-7 when James Harris came to the crease at number nine with the lead at 183. However, together with Franklin the resurgent Welshman blunted the second new ball before showing off a more expansive game once the result was all but determined. Once touted as somebody of genuine all-round potential, today’s 59 not out was Harris’s first half-century for Middlesex – another promising sign that, freed from the injury problems that blighted his first two summers in London, he is back to somewhere close to his best.
Much like Sunday Franklin looked secure at the crease from just about the moment he arrived. The New Zealander’s form had not been great before this game but on a placid Uxbridge pitch he showed the Middlesex faithful exactly why he had been signed on an Irish passport this winter. The day was dominated by his twin partnerships of 103 with Burns and Harris, the latter unbroken. Had he wanted to he would surely have become the first Middlesex batsman since Neil Dexter at the same venue in 2009 to reach three figures in both innings of a Championship but instead he selflessly declared nine short of his second ton in order to hasten the conclusion of proceedings.
There was still business to be attended to before handshakes, however, with Middlesex needing to get their over rate up from minus three to zero. As a result those who remained in the ground were treated to delectable serving of part-time spin. First up Paul Stirling took the new ball, jumper on despite sunshine and temperatures in excess of twenty degrees. Sam Robson then came on first change, unveiling an idiosyncratic leg-spinners action featuring an odd-looking double hop. Finally it was the turn of Nick Compton to try – and fail – to better his first-class bowling average of 74 with an over of off-breaks. Richard Oliver did fall to Ollie Rayner during the 11 overs before the draw was agreed with Worcestershire 39-1.
“You put your own individual stats aside and do what’s best for the team”, Franklin said at the close when asked about his declaration. “It can be a bit difficult to get away from that but I wanted to get our over rate up and get out of here”.
“There were probably two tricky periods we had to get through – the first hour this morning making sure we didn’t lose too many wickets and that little period after lunch with the new ball. Jimmy [James] Harris came out and played a great knock, a maiden 50 for the club, so I’m really happy for him.”
Worcestershire may have had to settle for a draw but they were at least able to get some overs into Moeen Ali. The England all-rounder sent down 27 overs of off-spin in the Middlesex second innings, taking only one wicket but bowling tidily and varying his pace well.
“It wasn’t easy to get Mo a bowl in the last game which was over in two days”, his captain Daryl Mitchell said. “He got a great opportunity here and he’ll be a lot better for that sort of bowl and hopefully he’ll take that confidence into the international series.
“I think he’s improving, he’s back to somewhere close to where he wants to be. He’s got better and better the more he’s bowled. I’m sure come that first Test he’ll be where he wants to be.”
With Hampshire and Nottinghamshire going down to heavy defeats this week the draw is enough to take Worcestershire out of the relegation zone and into seventh place. Middlesex climb up to second though Yorkshire and Warwickshire, the two counties directly behind them, have a game in hand.