MIDDLESEX V LANCASHIRE DAY 2
MIDDLESEX’s much maligned middle order finally came up trumps as the hosts took the initiative against Lancashire on day two at Lord’s.
Dawid Malan led the recovery with an elegant 92 after talismanic skipper Chris Rogers had fallen cheaply, sharing a second wicket stand of 107 with England hopeful Sam Robson (51).
Both men fell to needless run-outs, Malan’s denying him a first County Championship century since August 2012, but another man with aspirations for England’s middle-order, Eoin Morgan (76) and former Seaxes skipper Neil Dexter (44) had put on 94 by the time bad light and then rain brought an early close with 10 overs left to be bowled.
Brighter skies than 24 hours earlier would have encouraged the hosts as they set off in pursuit of Lancashire’s first day total of 266, but they suffered an early blow when Rogers, who had just survived one big shout for caught behind, flicked at one down the leg-side off Kyle Hogg to depart for just a single.
It was probably the worst ball Hogg bowled in what was an impressive return from injury that otherwise went without reward.
The loss of Rogers has in recent times been a cue for collapse, but mercurial left-hander Malan and the mentally strong Robson dug in faced with some testing new-ball bowling from Hogg and the red rose’s veteran skipper Glen Chapple.
Malan survived a scare when a clip off of his legs hit the hands of Karl Brown at short square leg, but did not stick and there was another life of sorts just before lunch when he flashed an edge between wicketkeeper Jos Butler and first slips.
Those aberrations apart this was Malan almost in full cry, full of flowing off drives, savage back foot cuts and the pull shot, played so early it sailed through mid-wicket rather than square – a touch of class.
Robson was his usual dependable self, also profiting from too much width given by first change bowlers Tom Smith and Kyle Jarvis, the latter especially wayward.
It was early afternoon before the pair was separated in needless fashion when Malan pushed towards cover and set off for a single. Robson responded immediately but Luis Reece picked up and diving forward threw down the stumps with the opener a foot short of his ground.
It was good fielding but there was never a run there.
Malan recovered to raise his 50 with a 10th four and an 11th immediately followed, a dream of a shot through the covers.
With Morgan playing within himself and resisting the high risk one-day shots which have brought his downfall in the longer game in the past the pair added 73, but with Malan in sight of 100 there came another moment of madness.
Having earlier been the culprit Malan was this time the victim as Morgan set off for another single which wasn’t there, giving Ashwell Prince time to take aim and throw down the stumps.
At 181-3 there was scope for the customary wobble, but Dexter joined forces with Morgan and the two played with few alarms either side of tea, Dexter savagely pulling the only six of the day to the long boundary over mid-wicket.
With the new ball just six overs old a testing spell awaits the not out batsmen this morning, but if Middlesex can survive that they can put Lancashire’s own fragile batting line-up under pressure on day three.