Nick Compton did his best to preserve Middlesex’s unbeaten record in this summer’s LV= County Championship by hitting a determined 74 against Warwickshire at Lord’s.
Middlesex, second in Division One after three wins from five matches, were still bowled out for 260 in reply to Warwickshire’s first innings’ 342, but Compton’s three-and-a-half hour effort was invaluable on a pitch continuing to help the seamers.
In 24.2 overs’ batting in the final session, Warwickshire could then only struggle to 58 for two in their second innings – stretching their overall lead to 140 with skipper Varun Chopra on 31 not out – as Toby Roland-Jones had Ateeq Javid caught at first slip for 8 and James Harris clean bowled Jonathon Webb for 4.
Jonathan Trott kept Chopra company with 12 not out until bad light ended play four balls’ early, but Middlesex will be hopeful of being to bat it out for a draw on the final day even if Warwickshire decide to try to accelerate and set a target.
Compton was joined in stands of 70 and 69 by Eoin Morgan, who hit eight fours in a 62-ball 44, and Neil Dexter, who finished unbeaten on 47, but from 192 for four the Middlesex innings fell away after Compton was eventually caught at fine leg top-edging a hook at Boyd Rankin.
With four wickets going down for 14 runs inside 11 overs, as Middlesex slipped to 206 for eight, it took a 47-run ninth wicket stand between Dexter and Roland-Jones to reduce the size of Warwickshire’s first innings lead – with Roland-Jones swinging his bat lustily to reach 32 from 30 balls.
Resuming on 39 for one, Middlesex initially lost Sam Robson for 30 early in a morning session cut to just 70 minutes by rain and bad light, caught at first slip off Chris Wright after the opener had added just four to his overnight score.
Morgan’s first championship innings of the season was a streaky one, with an edge against Keith Barker flying through a vacant fourth slip on 4 before he was dropped off the same bowler one run later, at first slip.
But Morgan was beginning to flow when he got out, off-driving and pulling Barker for fours earlier in the same over that brought his dismissal, and Compton looked similarly distraught at his own dismissal.
Rankin, strangely kept out of the Warwickshire attack until 44 overs had been bowled, saw his third over taken for 20 runs as Compton suddenly produced a burst of scoring, but once he had removed the former England Test opener the Middlesex innings began to crumble as Jeetan Patel and Rikki Clarke shared three more wickets in quick succession.
Off spinner Patel lured John Simpson into lifting a drive to short mid wicket on 1, Clarke picked up a smartly-held low caught and bowled to remove Ollie Rayner for 3 and then the tall seamer sent back James Harris for a duck, caught at second slip. Earlier, Clarke had bowled James Franklin, also for a second-ball nought, and ended with figures of 3 for 42.
Rankin wrapped up the Middlesex innings by having Roland-Jones caught at the second attempt by Webb at deep square leg, from a top-edged pull, and then trapping Finn lbw for 1.