It would be interesting to know where Middlesex would be without Ryan Higgins this season.
So far in 2023, he has entered the field at the following scores: 20/5 & 77/6 (v Essex), 36/5 & 80/5 (v Northamptonshire), and 148/5 & 192/4 (v Nottinghamshire).
Therefore, when he came out to the crease with the score at 62/5 today, he would have certainly been aware of the situation in front of him against Kent.
Resuming on 113 for six with Ben Compton and Grant Stewart at the crease, a wicketless morning could have seen the game slip away from Middlesex, with a textbook cover drive in the first over further evidence of this.
Five overthrows from a Tom Helm delivery only served to extend their frustrations as Compton continued to remain the immovable object, he was on day one. An edge past the slips saw the opener bring up his 21st first-class fifty-plus score, and leg byes brought up the fifty-run partnership.4.
There was a sense that an opportunity was slipping away. However, Middlesex were provided with the breakthrough they so desperately needed the very next delivery, with Compton mistiming a pull shot off Ethan Bamber to send the ball straight into John Simpson’s gloves.
Some fireworks from Stewart, including a big legside six to end Bamber’s wicket-taking over, dragged Kent’s score to 186 when Tom Helm took an impressive diving catch, off that man Higgins’ bowling, to finally dismiss the allrounder and end Kent’s innings following some short-but-sweet lower-order contributions. Tim Murtagh and Bamber both ended with four wickets.
However, Higgins strode out to the middle with Middlesex trialling by 124, with the risk the top order had essentially undone all the bowler’s hard work in the morning session.
The allrounder had other ideas it seemed, moving to five with a wonderful backfoot punch that raced to the boundary, followed by an excellent punch through extra cover.
Joined by Luke Hollman, his partner-in-crime for their failed chase against Essex, the pair started to chip away at the first-innings deficit. This was not without its fair amount of luck, with a top-edge from a Hollman pull shot flying over the slips for four.
Higgins has looked a step above Middlesex other batters this season, producing an excellent on-drive for four to keep the score ticking over. Midway through his innings, a sudden sense of urgency took over the former Gloucestershire player, with an attempted expansive shot edging just wide of the slip cordon.
He once again produced back-to-back boundaries, including a nice shot through mid-wicket, to race through the 40s, bringing up his fourth half-century of the season with an effortless pull to the square-leg boundary.
Hollman’s dismissal still saw Middlesex trial, but Higgins continued to move along, supported by Tom Helm. The pair saw the home side take the lead with Helm, despite his lower-order status even producing a glorious cover drive. Michael Hogan did get his own back, pinning him in front the next ball.
When Murtagh came out, it was clear attack was the order of the day. The veteran seamer smashed his first ball to the long-on boundary for four, and Higgins joined in with a six over the mid-wicket boundary that kept the fielder interested to the last. This fun soon ended, with Higgins being caught off Wes Agar trying to move things along for a season-best 71.
Ethan Bamber was nothing short of audacious in his approach, even attempting a scoop. His partnership with Murtagh, despite being worth only 13, undoubtedly served to further infuriate Kent’s bowlers, for whom Agar was the stand-out with four wickets.
With the sun shining the brightest it had all day, Zak Crawley and Compton came out to face Tim Murtagh with Kent 43 runs in arrears. It remained 43 runs two balls, but with Crawley, followed by Daniel Bell-Drummond, already back in the pavilion following some inspired new ball bowling by Murtagh. Not bad for a 41-year-old.
Jack Leaning saw off the hat-trick ball and combined well with Compton to drag the away team within three runs of the lead when bad light stopped play for the day. The contest seems evenly poised heading to day three, but without Ryan Higgins, this may not have been the case.