v Yorkshire 20-23 Sep 2016

Match Report Specsavers County Championship 20 September 2016

Middlesex
Yorkshire

DAY ONE - CLOSE OF PLAY

MIDDLESEX 208-5

Nick Gubbins defied Yorkshire’s five-man seam attack with a battling 120 not out at Lord’s to guide Middlesex to 208 for 5 on the opening day of the potential Specsavers County Championship title decider between the top two in Division One.

Gubbins, the 22-year-old left-hander, reached his fourth championship hundred of the season by pulling Ryan Sidebottom for six into the Grand Stand and an unbroken sixth wicket stand of 54 with James Franklin, who is 21 not out, had tilted the first skirmishes of what promises to be a fascinating contest Middlesex’s way before bad light lopped 14 overs from the final hour’s play.

Yorkshire took the early honours after an uncontested toss, their decision to bowl first vindicated when Middlesex slid to 57 for 3 with Jack Brooks taking 2 for 22 in a probing new ball spell in overcast conditions. But Gubbins led the fightback and there was a big moment in the day just before tea when Franklin, on 1, was badly missed by Gary Ballance at third slip off an unlucky Tim Bresnan.

After the interval, on 96, Gubbins looked to have tickled a legside catch to the keeper off Sidebottom, but umpire Rob Bailey turned down Yorkshire appeals. Yorkshire only had themselves to blame, though, for letting Gubbins get that far. On 22, with Middlesex’s total 53, Gubbins was also dropped at point by Azeem Rafiq, who leapt to try to claw down a square cut at Steven Patterson but could not cling on.

Earlier, Brooks sent back Sam Robson and Nick Compton in his new ball burst, before David Willey held his nerve against Dawid Malan to bowl the aggressive left-hander off an inside edge for 22.

Opener Gubbins, unfortunate not to be selected for England’s winter Test tours after a prolific season in championship cricket in which he has now topped 1300 runs, fought hard to hold Middlesex’s first innings together while both Stevie Eskinazi and then John Simpson hung on with him for a while on a pitch offering occasional low bounce.

Eskinazi played on to the impressive Brooks for 12 and Simpson’s innings of 15 ended when he shouldered arms to an inswinger from Bresnan which pinned him palpably in front. Brooks ended the first day with 3 for 45. Robson had been leg-before for a duck in Brooks’ fourth over from the Nursery End, beaten by a full ball angled into him. Compton was also lbw, for 8, offering no stroke to a ball from Brooks which nipped back up the Lord’s slope.

Malan greeted Willey’s introduction by hitting four fours and a two from the first seven balls he faced from the left-arm seamer, but perished when he aimed one expansive off drive too many. Willey, whose first over cost 15 runs, ended up with creditable figures of 1 for 25 from his initial six-over spell.

Rafiq’s off breaks were not introduced until the 56th over and he bowled only a handful of overs before Yorkshire took the second new ball immediately it was due. Two overs later, however, bad light intervened with MCC not allowed to use the Lord’s floodlights because of an agreement with the local council limiting the number of times they can be switched on in a season. That means, in essence, that floodlights cannot be used in any championship fixture on the ground.

Yorkshire – aiming to win a third successive county title – began the game nine points behind leaders Middlesex, with both counties wary of third-placed Somerset, who began this final round of games just a point behind Yorkshire and who must beat Nottinghamshire at Taunton if they are to have a chance of finishing as champions for the first time in their history.

DAY TWO - CLOSE OF PLAY

YORKSHIRE 235-6

MIDDLESEX 270 a/o

Tim Bresnan led a gutsy Yorkshire fightback with an unbeaten ​72 as the champions fought hard to hang on to their title on an absorbing second day against Division One leaders Middlesex at Lord’s. ​

Team-mate Jack Brooks had earlier taken a career-best 6 for 65 as Middlesex were dismissed for 270.

Toby Roland-Jones spearheaded the riposte by removing three of Yorkshire’s top four for ducks before Bresnan, from No.5 in the order, led the fightback. He shared a stand of 116 in 35 overs with Andy Hodd (64) before two wickets in the last hour tilted the balance back Middlesex’s way as Yorkshire ​trailing by 35 on 235 for 6, with Bresnan 72 not out from 178 balls with seven fours.​

It completed an excellent day for the former England player who had earlier finished with 3 for 49.​

Yorkshire need to get 350 in the first innings and then win to claim their third successive Championship but that looks unlikely on a pitch offering assistance to the seamers and with a new ball due after 11 overs in the morning. But while Bresnan is there they have hope.

The 31-year-old passed 50 for the 30th time in his first-class career and fifth this season ​although it could be that Roland-Jones’ new ball burst proves ultimately decisive​ as Middlesex press for their first Championship since 1993​.

Ten of the 11 wickets that fell came from bowlers operating at the Pavilion End and Roland-Jones picked up 3 for 7 in a high-class eight-over new ball spell. A yorker proved too good for Alex Lees while Gary Ballance and Andrew Gale, to his second ball, were caught at second slip by deliveries angled across them. At the other end Adam Lyth played impressively, scoring 43 of Yorkshire’s first 53 runs before he was unluckily bowled by a delivery from Steve Finn which rolled off his bat onto the stumps.

Middlesex were rampant but Bresnan found a reliable ally in Hodd as Yorkshire launched another of the middle-order rallies that have been a feature of their ​title ​defence. As the ball got softer batting became easier, although Hodd should have been dismissed on 22 when Finn found his edge but Nick Compton grassed a straightforward catch at third slip.

Hodd was first to his half-century and had moved onto 64 when Roland-Jones returned and trapped him leg before as he shaped to play the ball to leg. It was a big blow to Yorkshire who then lost David Willey (22) to Tim Murtagh before Azeem Rafiq and Bresnan saw their side through to stumps.

Earlier, Yorkshire’s seamers had fought back superbly, led by Brooks who took the last three wickets to fall as Middlesex added just 62 runs in the session before they were dismissed five minutes before lunch.

He dismissed Ollie Rayner, Finn and Murtagh after Bresnan had claimed the key wickets of Nick Gubbins and James Franklin. Gubbins added just five runs to his overnight 120 before driving loosely to second slip having put on 73 for the sixth wicket with his captain.

Bresnan also picked up Franklin for 48 before Brooks returned to the attack to sweep away the tail and take his season’s tally to 59 with power to add on Thursday when a fascinating game may take decisive shape.

DAY THREE - CLOSE OF PLAY

MIDDLESEX 270 a/o & 81-2

YORKSHIRE 390 a/o

Tim Bresnan completed one of the great hundreds of the county cricket summer at Lord’s today, going to a seven-and-a-half hour 142 not out as Yorkshire turned the tables on title rivals Middlesex in thrilling fashion.

Bresnan’s brilliant 293-ball knock hauled Yorkshire to 390 in reply to Middlesex’s first innings’ 270, with Ryan Sidebottom then following up his own batting heroics from No11 by striking with the new ball as he and Jack Brooks dealt Middlesex two early blows before they recovered to 81 for 2 by the end of a gripping third day.

Yorkshire, however, still lead by 39 runs.  With 350 needed inside 110 first innings overs for the four batting bonus points that would keep alive their chances of a third successive Specsavers County Championship triumph, Bresnan actually led Yorkshire, who had slipped to 53 for 4 soon after he came to the crease on day two, to an improbable first innings lead of 120.

Bresnan was joined in key stands by Azeem Rafiq and Sidebottom, with whom he added 56 for the last wicket to clinch that crucial fourth batting point and put pressure back on Middlesex.

Middlesex, also searching for the win they require to clinch a first title since 1993, were left hugely frustrated as Bresnan and Rafiq, who was dropped on 33 and 38 before reaching 65, added 114 for the seventh wicket as Yorkshire reached 333 for 8 by lunch.

There was huge drama, however, either side of the interval as Rafiq was finally bowled through the gate by Tim Murtagh and, on the stroke of lunch, Steven Patterson edged Steven Finn to Ollie Rayner at second slip to go for 11. Brooks then poked the fifth ball of the afternoon session straight to Nick Gubbins at mid on, off Murtagh, to depart for a duck, and suddenly Yorkshire were 334 for 9 and in danger of missing out on the fourth batting point they required – should they go on and win the match, of course – to stay in the title hunt.

With the field set back for Bresnan, and with Sidebottom defending stoutly, Yorkshire inched towards their 350 target – until, at 349 for 9 and just after 2pm, bad light followed almost immediately by rain forced the players off. When play resumed, just over an hour later and now in bright sunshine, Sidebottom survived a huge shout for lbw from Toby Roland-Jones before turning the fast bowler for four and brandishing his bat high in celebration.

Sidebottom went on to score 23 before being bowled by Rayner having a swing, while Bresnan clubbed Rayner into the Grand Stand for six and hit 12 fours besides.

Yorkshire resumed on an overnight 235 for 6 with Bresnan on 72 and Rafiq 20 and by the time the second new ball was taken, 11 overs into the third day, their total had moved quickly to 286 for 6 with Rafiq twice fending off fierce Finn lifters over the slip cordon for fours. Rafiq then deliberately uppercut Finn to third man where Nick Compton, diving forward, could not hold on to the catch.

Rafiq had another life when Rayner, at second slip, spilled a fast edge off James Franklin’s left arm seam, as he fell to his left, and Bresnan, on 99, had a scare when he was slow to respond to a call for a leg bye and was almost run out at the bowler’s end. But Bresnan was soon celebrating, arms and bat aloft in triumph, after going to his sixth first-class hundred from 222 balls.

Rafiq hit ten fours in his spirited 97-ball effort, hooking Murtagh for six and battling on bravely after being hit on the helmet on 53 by a short ball from Roland-Jones.  

The start of Middlesex’s second innings began with Sam Robson crookedly edging Sidebottom’s sixth ball to third slip, bagging a pair in the process, and Compton being bowled for 1 by an absolute beauty from Brooks, which nipped down the Lord’s slope to clip the top of off stump.

Gubbins and Dawid Malan, however, staunched the blood of a scoreboard showing 2 for 2 and, on a sunlit evening and before another sizeable and engrossed crowd, took their third wicket partnership to an unbroken 79.

Gubbins has added an unbeaten 39 to his first innings 125 and Malan 37 not out. It was a relatively gentle end to an action-packed day but more drama, on the final day, is surely guaranteed with both Middlesex and Yorkshire needing to win this game now that Somerset sit on top of the table having trounced Nottinghamshire at Taunton.

DAY FOUR - MATCH RESULT - MIDDLESEX WIN BY 61 RUNS
A thrilling Toby Roland-Jones hat-trick provided a suitably dramatic end to a magnificent Specsavers County Championship finale as Middlesex clinched their first title for 23 years by beating champions Yorkshire by 61 runs with 28 balls to spare on a golden, sunlit evening at Lord’s.
 
An eleventh championship title, their first since 1993, and a first to be won on their home ground at Lord’s since 1920, was Middlesex’s deserved reward for a brave declaration as the county cricket season ended in unforgettable scenes.
 
Yorkshire, set 240 to win in 40 overs – they also needed a victory to take a third successive title – were bowled out for 178 with Roland-Jones finishing with 6 for 54 and, after bowling Yorkshire last man Ryan Sidebottom around his legs, sprinting away in ecstasy before being engulfed by his joyous teammates.
 
Roland-Jones had bowled Andy Hodd with the first ball of the 36th over, having removed Azeem Rafiq with the last ball of his previous over. Yorkshire’s players then went on a lap of the ground, as Middlesex began their celebrations, and another fine crowd gave them a generous hand. This was a day when all 22 players were winners, in respect of the entertainment they had served up and the gloss they had put on a much-loved, 126-year-old competition.
 
Earlier, Yorkshire had served up some declaration bowling once Middlesex’s Dawid Malan and Nick Gubbins had removed the chance of a result by natural means by taking their third wicket stand of 198 in 65 overs.
 
Malan made 112 and Gubbins 93 to add to his first innings 125, with Middlesex finally declaring on 359 for 6.
 
At the halfway stage of their chase Yorkshire were 87 for 3, having lost Adam Lyth, Alex Lees and David Willey and needing a further 153 from 20 overs. Lyth, playing defensively on the back foot, edged Toby Roland-Jones to first slip on 13, Lees pulled Tim Murtagh to deep mid wicket to go for 20 and Willey, promoted to No 3, made only 11 before skying Murtagh to deep mid on where Stevie Eskinazi held a fine catch running back.
 
Bresnan was soon into his stride, however, and helped Gary Ballance to add 50 in ten overs to reinvigorate Yorkshire. Ballance, who slog-swept Ollie Rayner’s off breaks for six, had scored 30 off 39 balls when he swung at Steven Finn and skied to Sam Robson at deep mid on.
 
Gale, on 2, edged Finn for four at catchable height between the keeper and a wide first slip and soon he was thrashing the same bowler through the covers for another boundary as Yorkshire brought the runs required down to two figures.
 
Bresnan, having just thrashed Roland-Jones to the extra cover ropes for the best of his four fours – he clubbed two legside sixes besides, off Rayner and Finn – then tried to whip the next ball away to mid wicket and was adjudged leg-before right across in front of his stumps. It was a brave innings from the makeshift Yorkshire No 5 who had scored 197 runs for just once out in the match.
 
Gale, on 22, was bowled making room against the impressive Roland-Jones, to leave Yorkshire 160 for 6, and Rafiq soon followed when he skied an attempted big hit to the keeper. It was the 300th first-class wicket of Roland-Jones’s career, but that milestone was lost amid all the excitement.
 
In between the Roland-Jones hat-trick, Steven Patterson was bowled by Finn for 2 as Yorkshire’s second innings disintegrated in the face of some superb pace bowling.
 
Middlesex initially fought hard to get to 239 for 3 from 85 overs before Lyth and Lees served up some ‘help-yourself’ spinners while another 120 runs came from 8.5 overs. Sixes and fours came in a flurry, but the gentle offerings – however unedifying – were surely justified in the circumstances. Would anyone have wanted this match, and this wonderful championship finale, simply to have fizzled out in a dull draw? And, what is more, Somerset - who would have been champions if this match ended in a draw - would have resorted to declaration bowling if they had needed to do so to win the title.
 
The declaration arrived when James Franklin skied a return catch to Lyth from the fifth ball of the 94th over of Middlesex’s second innings. Tea was immediately taken, as another fine Lord’s crowd – and thousands more watching on Sky Sports and following the action through websites and social media – gathered themselves for the prospect of a thrilling final session, of the match and the season.
 
Middlesex started the day on 81 for 2, still 39 runs adrift, with Yorkshire aiming to bowl them out and win the game that way. Gubbins and Malan, however, had other ideas. On 39 and 37 overnight, respectively, the two left-handers batted beautifully to frustrate Yorkshire’s attack on a pitch that looked to have flattened out even more.
 
Gubbins finally chipped a return catch to off spinner Rafiq just before lunch, but Malan completed his third hundred of the season soon after the interval. He then hit a full toss from Lees straight to square leg in the second over of declaration bowling.
 
Eskinazi took 22 runs from the 86th over, lobbed up by Lyth, and was 78 not out from 83 balls, with four sixes and ten fours, when the declaration came. John Simpson also hit out for 31 – Yorkshire’s fielders were barely trying to stop the ball going to the boundary – before being bowled by Lees aiming another flamboyant stroke

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