LV= COUNTY CHAMPIONSHIP DIVISION ONE - DAY THREE
Lancashire 266 & 15-1
Middlesex 459-8 dec
EOIN Morgan’s first County Championship century for five years raised hopes of victory over Lancashire on day three at Lord’s yesterday.
Not since making 114 not out against Leicestershire at Southgate in 2009 had the Irish-born left-hander passed three figures for the tenants of Lord’s though international call-ups and IPL commitments have severely limited his appearances since.
His 103 against the red rose county at the home of cricket helped Middlesex to a 193-run first innings lead and sent a timely reminder to Peter Moores he was in good nick ahead of next month’s first Test against Sri Lanka.
In truth most of Morgan’s good work had been done on Monday and having resumed 76 not out he limped rather than charged to the landmark even though he raised it with the last of his 12 fours.
In the end the hosts were indebted to a century stand between John Simpson (50) and Ollie Rayner (77) for their sizeable advantage.
Rain limited Middlesex to 10 overs bowling at the visitors before stumps, but this was enough to claim the wicket of Luis Reece as Lancashire closed on 15-1.
Rain delayed the start by half an hour and even when the action got underway a combination of cloudy skies and good new-ball bowling from Kyle Hogg and Glen Chapple meant Morgan and overnight partner Neil Dexter batted cautiously.
The century stand was realised and Dexter reached 50, but the 300 had only just been raised when the weather intervened again after 53 minutes play driving the players off for an early lunch.
Nine overs were lost and when play resumed Morgan reached his century with a cover drive, but wickets were soon falling.
Dexter was bowled by Hogg from one of several deliveries from the Pavilion End which kept low and Morgan soon followed when he gloved a wild delivery down the leg-side from Tom Smith into the gloves of Jos Butler.
Out of form Joe Denly also did not last long inside edging one from the tireless Hogg through to Butler, meaning Middlesex had slid to 317-6 and the lead was just 51.
However, any hopes of Lancashire blowing away the tail disappeared as slowly at first, but then with increasing confidence Simpson and Rayner batted the hosts to a position of great strength.
Both were harsh on spinner Simon Kerrigan in particular, each hitting him for one huge six, the onslaught becoming particularly belligerent after tea as Chris Rogers’ side chased quick runs.
Both protagonists in the partnership eventually holed out with Rayner’s dismissal signalling the declaration, but even as the spinner and not out batsman Toby Roland-Jones sprinted from the field to get ready to bowl the heavens opened once more.
Around an hour was lost, leaving 10 overs to be bowled and when Middlesex re-emerged Steven Finn took the new ball for the first time this season.
However, it was Tim Murtagh who made the breakthrough, trapping Reece with a ball which kept low – this time from the Nursery End.
Sunshine is forecast on day four so Middlesex should get a full compliment of overs to put Glen Chapple’s men under maximum pressure.
It remains to be seen whether an essentially good batting wicket will show enough variations in bounce to get them the wickets needed to make it three wins out of three in the Championship at Lord’s this season.