MIDDLESEX V WARWICKSHIRE DAY ONE
Middlesex: Yet to bat
Middlesex suffered more bowling injury scares and several other self-inflicted wounds on day one of the LV County Championship clash with Warwickshire at Uxbridge yesterday.
Both Toby Roland-Jones and Corey Collymore sustained ankle injuries, the latter’s keeping him out of the attack after tea as a precaution, but it was problems with their catching which left Neil Dexter’s side on the back foot against the reigning champions.
After losing the toss on a typically batting friendly pitch at Park Road, the hosts promptly dropped Bears’ opener Varun Chopra twice before he had scored.
The England Lions’ opener made the most of the reprieves, batting throughout the day for an unbeaten 141.
His opening partner Ian Westwood was also given a life with the luckless Toby Roland-Jones the bowler on all three occasions.
With their bowling resources depleted by international call-ups for Steven Finn and Tim Murtagh, and James Harris having not recovered from a side strain, Middlesex opted for two spinners in Ollie Rayner and Ravi Patel and were desperate to win the toss on one of the flattest wickets in the country.
Sadly, Chopra, standing in for the injured Jim Troughton called correctly and unsurprisingly chose to bat – but his stay at the wicket should have been a very short one.
In just the third over off the day and still not off the mark he edged Roland-Jones to the recalled Dawid Malan at first slip, but Middlesex’s most reliable close catcher fumbled not once but twice before grassing the chance.
It should not have mattered as in Roland-Jones’ next over Chopra flashed hard at one wide of off-stump, but Adam Voges at third slip spilt this one as well despite getting two hands to the chance.
It was soon clear the Lord’s tenants would pay a high price for these fielding lapses as Chopra and in particular Westwood batted increasingly confidently through the morning.
With lunch approaching Middlesex got a third chance to break the blossoming opening stand when Westwood, already on 53 gloved a short ball from Roland-Jones who had switched to the Pavilion End.
However the England Lions’ pace-man’s luck was out again as a diving John Simpson could only parry the effort before it too went to ground.
To make matters worse Roland-Jones was bowling with an ankle niggle having pulled up in his follow through.
Nevertheless he soldiered on after lunch and finally got overdue reward when Westwood hooked a short ball straight to Malan at long leg and this time the sun-hatted fielder clung on to send the opener packing for 65.
It was the only breakthrough of a turgid afternoon which yielded just 68 runs, thanks largely to some tight bowling by Ravi Patel in his first Championship match of the season. The left-arm spinner wheeled his way through 29 overs conceding just 49 runs.
However, there were more concerns for the hosts when Collymore fell awkwardly fielding a ball at fine leg. He briefly left the field following treatment and though he came back on shortly after tea, he did not bowl again.
Roland Jones went down in his follow-through early in the final session, but though in discomfort he continued to play his part in the hosts’ attack.
There was only one more breakthrough for Middlesex when Laurie Evans top edged a short ball from Dexter through to Simpson.
By this time Chopra had moved to his century from 235 balls with 12 fours - five more boundaries followed before stumps.
Middlesex will need to conjure up quick wickets this morning if they are to retain any hope of victory by the time it is their turn to bat.