Surrey close in on victory over Middlesex on day three

Middlesex: 238 & 272-9
Surrey: 433
Middlesex lead by 77 runs with 1 wicket remaining

Middlesex’s batting frailties were ruthlessly exposed by London rival Surrey as the reigning champions closed in on a big win on day three of their LV= Insurance Division One clash at Lord’s.

Aussie seamer Sean Abbott, Jamie Overton and Tom Lawes claimed three wickets apiece as the hosts crumbled from their overnight 179-5 to 238 all out in their first innings, John Simpson making 60 and Josh De Caires 30 not out. The latest collapse means they still have only two batting bonus points out of 45 so far this season.

Following on 195 behind, stand-in skipper Mark Stoneman (pictured) led the resistance with 72, but others came and went, before a career-best 46 not out for Ethan Bamber ensured there would be a fourth day.

Nevertheless, Abbott (three for 60) bowled De Caires with what proved the last ball of the day to leave Middlesex 272-9, a lead of only 77, meaning Surrey will surely wrap up a sixth win of the season early tomorrow.

If the home side were to save the follow-on much depended on Simpson continuing his resistance from day two, but the half centurion added only five before gloving one from Lawes (three for 57) down the leg-side to a diving Ben Foakes.

Nightwatchman Bamber was undone by extra bounce from Overton (three for 45) and looped a catch off the leading edge back to the bowler, who then castled the in-form Ryan Higgins for three.

The piece of theatre of the morning was provided by Tom Latham, the New Zealander pulling off a reflex grab at slip after Will Jacks in the gully had twice parried an edge from the bat of Tom Helm.

The fact Middlesex clawed their way to 238 was down to De Caires, who as an opener by trade can rarely have batted with a number 11. He struck a six into the Tavern Stand and protected Tim Murtagh so that the pair added 38 for the 10th wicket. However, with a precious batting point tantalisingly within reach Abbott (three for 37) returned to uproot Murtagh’s middle stump.

As expected, the championship leaders enforced the follow-on and struck second ball when Dan Worrall’s delivery beat Pieter Malan’s tentative prod and crashed into the stumps. It was the South African’s fifth duck of a miserable campaign.

Fellow opener Stoneman adopted a more positive approach, hitting four successive boundaries off Jordan Clark’s first over as the hosts got through to lunch without further bleeding.

For a while on the resumption all was well with Stoneman continuing to attack and Sam Robson looking organised in defence, but shortly after driving Abbott for his only boundary the latter prodded the same bowler into the glue-like hands of Latham to end the stand at 65.

Stoneman’s eighth four raised his fifty from 57 balls, only for him to play a shot too many and lift a Lawes delivery into the hands of Overton on the mid-wicket fence.

By that stage Jack Davies had come and gone and when Simpson gave Foakes more catching practice at 127-5 the prospect of an innings defeat loomed large, though this ignominy was ultimately avoided

Cameos by Holden and Higgins came close to achieving parity, the former making his runs despite being struck on the jaw by a return from the outfield when he was on seven.

De Caires and Bamber, then further frustrated the Surrey bowlers with a stand of 64, two sixes, the second assisted by four overthrows helping the latter to his career-best.