Middlesex thwarted by Essex tail and bad light

Middlesex 507-7 dec & 239-3 dec
Essex 295 & 160-8 Cook 37; Roland-Jones 3-42, Finn 2-39
Middlesex (12 pts) drew with Essex (8 pts)

Bad weather and a resolute Essex tail denied Middlesex their first County Championship victory of the season on a frustrating final day at Lord’s.

Middlesex reduced the visitors – who were pursuing an unlikely target of 452 – to 130-7, only to be held up by a stubborn eighth-wicket partnership between Neil Wagner and Simon Harmer.

The pair used up enough overs to ensure Middlesex ran out of time and the deteriorating light forced a draw with two wickets still standing.

Beginning the day at 19-0, Essex doubled that tally before Tim Murtagh made the breakthrough, unleashing a yorker to send Nick Browne (19) on his way.

At the other end, Toby Roland-Jones initially struggled for consistency – but that changed when he switched to the Nursery End and immediately pinned Tom Westley (13) in front of his stumps.

Ollie Rayner picked up the prized scalp of former England captain Alastair Cook, caught at short leg for 37 – and the spinner then reeled off five successive maidens as Middlesex began to turn the screw.

Ravi Bopara and Dan Lawrence dug in after lunch as Essex crawled past three figures, while home skipper James Franklin rotated his pacemen along with an ever-growing slip cordon.

Steven Finn snared Lawrence for 15 after a juggling act by Adam Voges at first slip, while Roland-Jones returned to dismiss Adam Wheater (0) and Ryan ten Doeschate (1) and reduce Essex to 116-6.

The darkening skies forced Franklin to revert to an all-spin attack, but bad light and drizzle forced an early tea.

The players returned just over an hour later and Finn made up for lost time with his second delivery, bowling Bopara for 32 – but the Middlesex bowlers were unable to find a way past Wagner (16*) and Harmer (20).

Although Dawid Malan’s leg-spin eventually trapped Harmer leg before, the heavy clouds above Lord’s forced the players off again soon afterwards.