Middlesex CCC vs Nottinghamshire CCC Day Four Report

Middlesex CCC vs Nottinghamshire CCC Day Four Report

Middlesex 274 (Stoneman 76, Broad 4/68) & 249/6 (Malan 61) beat Nottinghamshire 364 (Duckett 177, Bamber 4/89) & 158/6d (Clarke 52) by four wickets.

Some things in life are worth waiting for. Day four of Middlesex’s clash with Nottinghamshire certainly tested the patience of spectators and journalist alike, but what unfolded when play did get underway made all the hold-ups worthwhile.

What can only be described as the lightest of rain led to a delayed start, with heavy drizzle preventing Nottinghamshire continuing from their overnight score in the afternoon session. With the rain clearing, and covers being removed, it was announced that play would start at 3:30pm with 40 overs scheduled.

Nottinghamshire had a choice. Come out to bat, forgoing any chance of a win but securing a draw, or declare in the hope they could induce a Middlesex collapse. Given a combination of factors, including the points awarded for a draw being reduced to the pre-pandemic level of five, and the home side’s struggles with the bat so far this season, the risker option looked rather tempting.

Peter Moores’ side attempted to deceive their hosts, allowing the home side to begin some fielding drills under the illusion they would take the field when play got underway. The emergence of the Nottinghamshire side in their whites to do the same quickly made Middlesex realise they had been set a target, allowing for a rather comical scene of the two teams passing each other on the pavilion steps.

Now, it was Middlesex with the choice. They could play it safe and watchfully see out the remaining overs, avoiding a third successive defeat. However, with their top-order struggles, the feasibility of this tactic would have been called into question. Middlesex needed a catalyst to kickstart their season, so why not take a risk and aim to chase it?  After all, this is the era of BazBall.

Their decision was confirmed when Stephen Eskinazi come out to the crease alongside Mark Stoneman to get the innings underway. 249 from 240 balls was the equation, with the attacking intent evident from the first over when the newly promoted opener crunched Stuart Broad through the covers for the first boundary of the innings.

Mark Stoneman, fresh from his first half-century of the season in the first innings, somewhat surprisingly took on the role of the aggressor, charging down his crease to his second ball that dropped just short of the boundary. He did pick up a boundary next delivery, tickling a leg-side Hutton delivery find round the corner. There was also a necessary element of luck, with Broad finding his outside edge which fell just wide of second slip, racing away to the boundary.

The pair raced to 30 for no loss after four overs, with Eskinazi greeting the start of Broad’s third over by clipping the delivery behind square for four. The England international got his revenge the very next delivery, trapping the batter in front. Despite just making 11, his opening stand made certain of Middlesex’s attacking intent.

Pieter Malan continued this trend, charging down the ground on multiple occasions, and forcing a dive to make sure he made his ground after stealing a second run. However, there was not much on display to demonstrate Malan looked entirely comfortable. He almost exclusively scored through mid-wicket, with a clip to this region bringing up Middlesex’s 50 from just 6.5 overs. He added six runs to his name with a strong-looking shot over wide long-on, with Stoneman also recording a maximum, flicking a Broad delivery off his hips into the grandstand.

With a run rate of 7.36 after 11 overs, belief starting to creep in around the ground that implausible may just be possible. Undoubtedly, the level of this belief would have dropped slightly the following over, with Paterson trapping Stoneman leg before wicket, ending his vigil of five fours and a six. His 32-ball 43 set the tone which Max Holden, promoted to no. 4, looked to continue.

Malan and Holden did bat with intent, with Holden racing to eight from just three deliveries after second-ball cover drive was followed by a clip through mid-wicket, but also a level of temperament permitted by Stoneman’s fast start, but also required due to the lean run of form both had started the season with. The pair overcame their initial nervousness, building a partnership which soon enough worth 50, and they did not stop there.

This growing confidence amongst the batters, shown by Holden’s wonderful cover drive, started to spread amongst the sparce crowd, with the required run rate kept in check despite the overs ticking by. Malan soon moved to his first half-century of the season from 54 balls, indescribably important to both him and his side in the case. A truly important innings came to an end with he looked to take on Mullaney but only found the hands of Slater, but he had come good at just the right time for his side.

Simpson continued the theme of promotion, making his intentions clear by sending a Steve Mullaney delivery into the top tier of the grandstand. The six runs were much appreciated, but losing the ball not so much, given the waning light, and the time taken to find a replacement ball. Holden brought up his fifty in the same number of balls as Malan, but fell three balls later.

Simpson and new batter Luke Hollman needed 57 from the final ten overs, with that total whittled down to 45 when Simpson was dismissed by Hutton. The in-form Ryan Higgins knew the task ahead of him, with time and light running out, adding 19 with Middlesex’s spinner from 17 deliveries before Hollman fell once again to Broad.

It truly was squeaky bum time, with Nottinghamshire trying to delay proceedings for as long as they could. Sam Robson, demoted to eight from his usual position of opener, strolled to the crease with the floodlights doing most of the heavy lifting. The reason behind his demotion was soon apparent, with the former England international struggling to score with the same fluency as his teammates.

The light meter was out by now, adding to the chaotic nature of Robson’s innings. The Notts field was determined to prevent any boundaries, succeeding in this role given the streaky nature of the seventh-wicket partnership. Each over saw a worry of stumps, a reading from the light meter, and a collective sigh of relief when play was allowed to continue.

This crazy game ended in a fitting way, with Robson pulling a short delivery from Broad to the fielder. However, Higgins, determined to lead his side to victory, set off, unbeknownst to Robson, who remained static before making a dart for the line. James, in possession of the ball, made a shy at the stumps before clattering into Robson, and such to Middlesex’s delight, missed.

Somehow, after being behind in the game for most of the match, Middlesex registered their first win upon their return to Division One. Questions may be raised around Nottinghamshire’s decision to declare, but, as Middlesex showed, sometimes it is worth taking a gamble.


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