Middlesex eyeing victory over Essex

Middlesex 507-7 dec & 239-3 Robson 77, Gubbins 64; Harmer 3-72
Essex 295 & 19-0 Browne 17*; Roland-Jones 0-7, Murtagh 0-12
Close, day three: Essex trail Middlesex by 432 runs

Defending champions Middlesex manoeuvred themselves into a winning position at Lord’s despite declining to enforce the follow-on.

Having bowled the visitors out with a deficit of 212, Middlesex extended their advantage beyond 450 with quick half-centuries from Sam Robson (77), Nick Gubbins (64) and Stevie Eskinazi (62).

Essex openers Nick Browne and Alastair Cook made it through to the close unscathed, but their side still face a battle to avoid defeat on the final day.

Resuming their first innings on 120-4, Essex soon lost Ravi Bopara (6), who was pouched at third slip off a Toby Roland-Jones outswinger.

But the home side found Dan Lawrence (75) harder to dislodge and he gained a staunch ally in Adam Wheater, who survived three edges off Roland-Jones as the pair built a sixth-wicket partnership of 127.

However, Wheater’s good fortune finally ran out at 64 when he swept Ollie Rayner to square leg, where Eskinazi juggled the catch but held on.

Essex skipper Ryan ten Doeschate struck a brisk 20 before being trapped leg before by Tim Murtagh – and that paved the way for Steven Finn (4-51) to polish off the tail.

Middlesex opted against making the visitors bat again and Robson and Gubbins set off at a steady pace in the home side’s second innings, taking advantage of some loose bowling to post their second century stand of the match.

Both openers eventually holed out to Simon Harmer in quick succession, but Eskinazi thrashed 62 from just 34 balls – a knock that included five sixes – as Middlesex declared on 239-3.

That left Essex chasing an unlikely target of 452, which they lowered by 19 after safely negotiating the remaining six overs.