The loss of the first day and lengthy interruptions through bad light and rain today mean that prospects of a result in this match are fading. Both teams cherish ambitions of claiming the runners up spot in the Championship but may have to settle for a draw tomorrow.
On this truncated third day, the star performers were the two Tims, Murtagh and Ambrose. The former bowled a persistently fine length and threatened the edge of the bat but Ambrose played with sound judgement and a fluency that put the rest Warwickshire top order to shame.
Warwickshire began day three of what is in effect an old-fashioned three day contest on 21-1. This quickly became 21-2 when William Porterfield pushed firmly at a full length delivery from off-spinner Ollie Rayner and edged behind. With some turn (albeit slow) in the pitch and variable bounce, there still seemed to be life in the game despite that loss of the first day.
Jonathan Trott has been in disappointing form for Warwickshire and he looked far from comfortable against the combination of pace and spin provided by Ollie Rayner and Toby Roland-Jones. Having survived a big lbw appeal from Roland-Jones just after the fifty came up, he then stretched to a widish ball from the same bowler and edged to give Simpson his second catch of the morning. At 53-3 the Bears’ innings and the fate of the match was in the balance and Sam Hain survived a massive appeal when he groped at a spinning delivery from Rayner, the ball flying to leg slip. Umpire Baldwin was unmoved.
Varun Chopra with Porterfield and Trott forms a trio of batsmen out of form and under-performing in four day cricket. Despite the odd flourish – a hit for six over square leg and a reverse sweep for four, both of Rayner – the lack of touch and confidence showed through. Having reached 44, he cut Tim Murtagh straight to Robson in the gully. Soon after, Sam Hain fended at a lifting delivery from the same bowler and edged to James Franklin at slip.
Rikki Clarke was dropped at second slip by Ollie Rayner off Murtagh but soon edged for the second time and the same fielder made no mistake. This left the Bears struggling at 86-6, with two new batsmen both on nought. Tim Ambrose started brightly, hitting cleanly through the off side for three consecutive boundaries off Murtagh, the last of which brought up the 100 after 40 overs The Bears went to lunch at 106-6.
It was not until the 40th over that the Middlesex leading wicket taker, James Harris got a bowl and he struggled for line and length, conceding 18 runs in his first three overs. This enabled Ambrose and Keith Barker to gain a foothold. By now, the lights were on and it was no surprise when bad light and rain took the players off for an hour with the score 153-6.
When play resumed after an early tea, Barker lofted Rayner for four and then Ambrose reached a splendid fifty off 88 balls with nine fours, most of them sweetly struck through the off side. Ambrose and Barker had added 87 when Barker sought to reverse sweep Stirling and edged to Compton at slip. His innings of 30 had undoubtedly steadied the Warwickshire ship. Jeetan Patel didn’t last long, however, edging the persevering Murtagh to the safe hands of Rayner at second slip. At 174-8, the Bears were still 33 behind and well short of a batting bonus point.
If Middlesex thought that the end of the innings was nigh, Chris Wright had other ideas. He gave excellent support to Ambrose, who played the shot of the day when he on-drove Harris for four. The 200 came up in the 75th over, then Middlesex conceded the lead and by the time bad light again intervened , the score had reached 224-8. Ambrose, on 84, was in sight of his century and Wright was strongly in support on 16.