Finn and Murtagh put Middlesex on top

Close, day three: Notts 326 & 184-5 lead Middlesex 439-9 dec by 71 runs

Steve Finn continued his impressive early season form with three more wickets as Middlesex gave themselves a good chance of victory after the third day at Lord’s.

Finn, hoping to reignite his England career, claimed 3-63 and Tim Murtagh took 2-46 as Nottinghamshire stumbled to 120-5 during the evening session, a lead of only seven.

An unbroken sixth-wicket stand of 64 between Riki Wessels (20 not out) and captain Chris Read (43 not out) pulled Notts back from the brink but Middlesex will still be favourites going into the final day.

Earlier, Sam Robson’s brilliant knock ended on 163 while John Simpson scored an unbeaten 108 as Middlesex established a healthy first innings lead of 113 runs.

They declared on 439-9 as Gareth Berg was unable to bat after waking up with a sore shoulder, which required a precautionary check-up in hospital.

Resuming on 296-4, Robson and Simpson added 35 more runs before the in-form opener’s six-and-a-half hour vigil ended when he edged Andy Carter to slip.

Ollie Rayner, promoted up the order in Berg’s absence, was bowled in the final over before lunch for 20, while James Harris was undone almost immediately after the interval.

Simpson and Murtagh took the tally past 400 and the wicket-keeper later celebrated his first Championship century in three years, before Middlesex declared midway through the afternoon with Berg absent.

The day continued to go the hosts’ way as Murtagh and Finn accounted for Notts openers Steven Mullaney (11) and Phil Jacques (15) to leave the visitors on 44-2, trailing by 69 runs.

Michael Lumb and James Taylor eased the pressure a little either side of tea with a stand of 40, ended when the former was lbw to Murtagh for 37.

Finn then had Taylor (33) and Samit Patel (15) lbw in successive overs to put Notts in real trouble, effectively 7-5.

The watchful Wessels was joined by the more attacking Read, whose dashing 43 from 49 balls delayed the home side’s charge.

Ending that partnership early on Wednesday now becomes pivotal to Middlesex’s hopes of victory.

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