Middlesex put in their strongest batting performance to date when it mattered to leave their Division One clash with Nottinghamshire poised for a draw.
Nottinghamshire ended the day with a lead of 248 runs, but with rain forecast for day four, it seems unlikely enough play will take place to force a result.
On a day which saw 102.4 overs bowled, Middlesex earned their first batting bonus point of the season, batting themselves into a position where a third-straight loss seems highly unlikely.
In what seems like an age ago, the home side resumed on 111 for two, which soon became 119 for three when Stephen Eskinazi got out trying to play Stuart Broad round the corner. Instead of the grass, he found the hands of Matthew Montgomery, who took an excellent catch. Holden did not stick around for long either, edging Broad to slip for just seven.
The way Stoneman was playing last night made a 30th first-class century, playing with a temperament previously unseen from Middlesex’s top order. He continued to play in this way, shown with his first runs of the day coming via a push through point that raced to the boundary. However, all the hard work Stoneman had put in was undone by Brett Hutton, who deserved some reward for his consistent and challenging bowling.
It once again seemed as if John Simpson and Ryan Higgins were going to have to combine to save Middlesex’s innings, although this situation posed less danger than 20 for five in the first innings here against Essex. Still 102 runs away from their first bonus batting point of the season, slapping Lyndon James through the covers for four. However, this bonus point quest was made that much harder when Simpson pulled out late from a hook, feathering James’ delivery through to Joe Clarke behind the stumps.
Out came Luke Hollman, with an unbeaten half-century already to his name this season, in the second innings against Essex. He worked well alongside Higgins, who was certainly getting into the flow of things, evidenced by a booming cover drive in Liam Patterson-White’s first over. Unfortunately for the left-handed Hollman, Stuart Broad was brought back on. A certain left-handed Australian opening batter can attest to Broad’s nightmare-inducing deliveries to those who are left-dominate. In somewhat predictable fashion, it was the England international who was responsible for the dismissal of Middlesex’s spinner, pinning him plumb lbw with a trademark celeb-appeal thrown in for good measure.
Worry not Middlesex fans was the nature of the message at Lord’s when the seventh wicket fell, still 42 runs in arrears to that elusive total of 250, with Martin Andersson coming out to the middle. The allrounder was selected for this match over Tom Helm due to his superior batting exploits. The plan unfortunately did not work, getting out for two.
Despite the wicket of those around him falling, Higgins stood tall. It was the turn of captain Toby Roland-Jones to aid in the search for the missing bonus point, offering the potential to be a worthy companion to Higgins, shown by an attempted slog to cow corner that went for a one-bounce four.
He even got the first signs of help for a while through his skipper, with Roland-Jones not wanting to hang around. Higgins brought up a third half-century in five innings in the process. However, disaster struck just a ball later, with the allrounder cutting a delivery from Lyndon James onto his own stumps, leaving Middlesex nine runs away from the bonus point with one wicket remaining. Low and behold, Roland-Jones’ attacking intent did the job, with the skipper reaching the milestone by confidently pulling James to the leg-side boundary.
All good things must come to an end, however. 24 runs on from the magic 250, or 26 away from the next bonus point checkpoint depending on your nature, Bamber edged a Brett Hutton delivery to James at first slip, and that was that. Hutton deserved his second wicket, with it meaning Middlesex’s went to bowl again with a first-innings deficit of 90 runs.
Nottinghamshire had 50 overs left in the day, and with the rain forecast for most of day four, a successful attacking approach would have gone a long way to setting up the victory they seem to have been heading towards for most of this match. This plan seemed to be in action when Roland-Jones’ first over went for 13 runs.
However, a good response from the Middlesex skipper saw him concede just four runs in the next nine deliveries, including the all-important wicket of first-innings centurion Ben Duckett. Fellow opener Haseeb Hameed fell just five overs later, forcing Nottinghamshire to re-think, and take a more defensive approach.
Matthew Montgomery once again went with nine runs to his name, leaving the scoreline at a perilous 50 for three, with a lead of 140. Ethan Bamber stood out with figures of two for 16 after ten overs, compared to Roland-Jones’ one for 32 from seven. Luke Hollman was introduced and took Ben Slater’s wicket second ball, but Joe Clarke seemed determined at the other end to dig in and earn each of his runs.
Accompanied by Lyndon James, the pair slowly rebuilt the innings, the ever-important lead creeping up to 223 by the time Higgins had his revenge and bowled James. But not before the shot of the day from Clarke, smashing Roland-Jones into the grandstand for six. It seemed set in stone that Steven Mullaney and Clarke would see out the day, but this was not to be. Once he had reached his half-century, and into the final over of the day, the frustration was clear as Higgins reaped the rewards his bowling deserved, pinning him lbw.
Stumps was called, with Nottinghamshire leading by 248 runs. Middlesex have only reached that score once this season.