Gary Ballance made runs, of course he did, but his was a lone hand, and Yorkshire are in deep trouble at Lord’s, where they have lost their last three games in remarkable fashion. Closing nine down and 260 behind, a remarkable effort is required to avoid a fourth loss.
Throughout Middlesex’s first innings of 446, the nagging sense was that a little more lay in the track than the total suggested. Adil Rashid had taken two wickets, including the last, Steven Finn, with balls that stayed low, and scoring had only been totally simple under the baking sun on Monday afternoon, with the centurions, Sam Robson and Paul Stirling, flying along. From the moment Robson fell caught behind to Ben Coad for 159, their batting on the second morning lacked fluency, in the face of improved Yorkshire bowling.
Fortunately Middlesex’s bowling was much better, and the work was well shared. Alex Lees fell early, perhaps unlucky to be given lbw, but Adam Lyth came together with Harry Brook, the self-assured 18-year-old debutant, to share 64. Brook looked special, driving Finn down the ground, and cutting crisply. It was another debutant, Ryan Higgins, who ended that partnership shortly before tea with a maiden first-class wicket for his probing medium-fasts; Lyth was caught behind but, like Lees, he was not happy with it.
After the break, Toby Roland-Jones bowled beautifully from the Nursery End, and Finn was a menace from the Pavilion. Short-leg took a smart catch to see off Brook, while Peter Handscomb’s handsome driving eventually saw him nick to first slip. With the ball now doing enough, a long tail offered little, but only Jack Brooks, who received a grubber from Higgins, had cause for complaint.
Finn bounced out Adil Rashid and Andrew Hodd missed a pull to Tim Murtagh, while Higgins, who was picked largely as a batsman and has waited plenty of time for his first chance, also bowled Steve Patterson.
“With the ball I felt I just needed to back up the big boys today, so it was nice to do that,” he said. “It’s been a while coming [the debut], but Richard Scott gave me the call the other day and the phone almost dropped out of my hand. A few boys are off with the Lions so who knows how long I’ve got, I’ll just do my best.”
Only Ballance, who moved past 9,000 first-class runs with a fine glance off his first ball, looked untroubled with some attractive straight drives, and he returns on Wednesday, with last man Ryan Sidebottom. With Middlesex desperate to force a win, they may well face the follow on.
Alex Davies, whose excellence is rather flying under the radar, made his third century of the season as Lancashire recovered from 69 for three to close on 278 for five in response to Hampshire’s 395. Davies made 115 and put on 80 with Dane Vilas, who finished 76 not out. Earlier, Kyle Abbott had been stranded three shy of his maiden first class ton.
At Chelmsford, the leaders Essex are in control against the bottom side Warwickshire, thanks to Ravi Bopara’s first Championship ton since 2014. Bopara made 192 and James Foster a wildly-celebrated 121, as Essex churned out 541 for nine declared, before Warwickshire closed with Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell in situ for two, having lost Andrew Umeed, run out by a direct hit from Bopara, and Ian Westwood, caught at slip off Simon Harmer.
Nottinghamshire are romping their way to another Division Two victory thanks to Samit Patel and James Pattinson, a formidable duo in formidable form. First, as they racked up 548 for nine declared against Leicestershire, Patel made 247 to become the first batsman in the club’s history to make successive double-centuries and to take him to 774 runs in his last five innings across formats. Pattinson’s five for 33 had skittled Leicestershire for 134 at stumps (Nottinghamshire have enforced the follow on), taking him to a cool 25 wickets at 10 apiece in four Championship matches this summer. England, you have been warned.
Second-placed Kent lead third-placed Worcestershire by just 44 runs with seven first innings wickets in hand. The frighteningly precocious Joe Clarke’s first century of the season carried Worcestershire to 336, with his stand with No9 Joe Leach, who made 57 not out, worth 90, and Matt Coles picking up six for 84. Leach then had Daniel Bell-Drummond, who is out of contract at the end of the season and attracting interest, caught behind third ball of the innings, and Josh Tongue dismissed Sean Dickson and Sam Northeast, as Kent closed on 120 for three. Joe Denly was unbeaten on 67, his 50th first-class half-century.
Graham Clark made his maiden first-class century, his second career-best in as many innings, as Durham took control against Glamorgan. They are 14 behind Glamorgan’s 295 with six first innings wickets in hand and Paul Collingwood, second only to Patel in the Division Two run charts, at the crease, unbeaten on 71.