Match Report: Middlesex v Essex


Middlesex v Essex

LV= Insurance County Championship
Lord’s Cricket Ground, Thursday 06 – Sunday 09 April 2023


Team News:

Essex: Nick Browne, Alastair Cook, Tom Westley (c), Dan Lawrence, Matt Critchley, Adam Rossington (wk), Simon Harmer, Simon Harmer, Ben Allison, Sam Cook, Jamie Porter.

Middlesex: Mark Stoneman, Sam Robson, Steve Eskinazi, Pieter Malan, Max Holden, John Simpson (wk), Ryan Higgins, Luke Hollman, Toby Roland-Jones (c), Tom Helm, Tim Murtagh.

Match Details:

Umpires: Michael Burns & Richard Illingworth
Match Referee: James Whitaker
Toss: Middlesex won the toss and elected to field
Result: Essex won by 97 runs

Scorecard: View Here

Day Four Highlights:

Day Four Report:

Shane Snater took two wickets in as many balls to end Middlesex’s stubborn resistance and wrap up Essex’s first LV= Insurance County Championship win at Lord’s since 2009.

Chasing a nominal target of 308, the home side displayed fighting spirit on the final morning as Ryan Higgins and Luke Hollman frustrated the bowlers with an eighth-wicket partnership of 87.

But Snater finally achieved the breakthrough, removing Higgins and Toby Roland-Jones with successive deliveries after lunch before Jamie Porter collected the final wicket to dismiss Middlesex for 210 and clinch a 97-run success.

Porter and fellow seamer Sam Cook finished with three apiece, while Snater returned figures of two for 34 and Hollman top-scored for Middlesex with an unbeaten 63 that included eight boundaries.

Having resumed at 77-5, the home side lost their sixth wicket in the second over of the day, a rising delivery from Sam Cook that nightwatchman Tom Helm could only fend into the hands of first slip.

It was Porter, with six wickets to his name in the first innings, who prised out Stephen Eskinazi, trapping the right-hander in front of his stumps for 37.

But Essex were held up by the eighth-wicket pair, with Higgins largely adopting a watchful approach – although he opted to take on Simon Harmer, pumping the off-spinner over the rope at long on to lift the total into three figures.

Hollman, meanwhile, looked strong off the back foot as he punched both Cook and Harmer through point to the boundary, along with an audacious reverse sweep off the latter that brought him four more.

The pair shepherded Middlesex to lunch at 162 for seven and they continued to hold out for another half-hour after the resumption, when Snater finally gained tangible reward for his consistent spell.

Higgins, whose edge had fallen short of the fielder in Snater’s previous over, was leg before for 41 and Roland-Jones steered the next delivery to first slip, where Alastair Cook leapt to his right to take the catch.

There was still time for Hollman to complete his half-century by sweeping Harmer for three before Porter castled Tim Murtagh to seal the opening victory of the 2023 season.

Day Three Highlights:

Day Three Report:

Essex’s seamers destroyed the Middlesex top order for the second time in 24 hours as they closed in on victory on day three of their LV= Insurance County Championship clash at Lord’s.

Nominally chasing 308 to win Middlesex’s first four batters were all on a pair after the havoc wreaked by Jamie Porter’s six-fer on day two.  And the mental scars of that had clearly not healed as the hosts quickly plummeted to 15-3, Sam Cook the chief architect with an opening burst of two for four.

Max Holden and John Simpson also succumbed to the spin of Simon Harmer and Matt Critchley respectively as Middlesex closed on 77-5, Cook finishing on 2-16.

Earlier, Critchley’s 53 ensured Essex reached 211 in their second innings, Tim Murtagh taking 4-44.

The story once again revolved around Middlesex’s front-line batters crumbling in their first taste of Division One cricket since promotion last summer.

Mark Stoneman relieved Sam Robson of the responsibility of facing the first ball, though soon wished he hadn’t when three balls in first-innings nemesis Porter (one for 24) pinned him in front, though replays suggested he may have been outside the line.

Robson survived the king pair but reached only three before suffering the same fate at the hands of Cook, who then had Essex’s third lbw appeal against Pieter Malan upheld, the South African this time making four. It wasn’t quite 4-4, but the Seaxes were again in tatters.

Max Holden briefly lifted the gloom, driving the ball well, especially square of the wicket, but he was cut off in his prime, a victim of the wiles of Simon Harmer, the 13th lbw of the match.

And Middlesex’s day was summed up in the penultimate over when Simpson clouted a full toss back into the hands of the grateful Critchley

Middlesex raised eyebrows at start of play by throwing the new ball to Ryan Higgins ahead of Murtagh at the Nursery End. The ploy nearly worked with the medium pacer rapping Sir Alastair Cook on the pad in the first few overs. His vociferous appeal was not upheld, though it looked adjacent.

Scare survived, Cook and Browne prospered against some initially wayward bowling. When Murtagh relieved Higgins he was immediately driven for four by Cook, who then deposited his next offering into the Mound Stand for six.

Murtagh gained recompense when Browne drove loosely to be caught at cover for soon after raising the half-century stand.

Cook too didn’t overly prosper from his earlier reprieve, brilliantly caught and bowled by Higgins and Tom Westley too departed before lunch to a leg-side strangle, but by then Essex had turned their 96-run lead into one of almost 200.

Critchley was Essex’s mainstay through the afternoon. The former Derbyshire all-rounder made a century on debut for Essex last season against Kent, but only passed 50 in the championship on one other occasion, a 90 in the reverse fixture at Canterbury.

Here, with Essex in the ascendancy he could play patiently and wait for the odd bad ball, and in company first with day one centurion Dan Lawrence and then Harmer he reached the landmark for the third time in Essex colours with the help of eight boundaries.

Critchley and Harmer were eventually victims of a frugal afternoon spell from Murtagh, unusually bowling from the Pavilion End, but by then Essex appeared to have enough in the bank.

Day Two Reaction: Jamie Porter

Day Two Highlights:

Day Two Report:

Jamie Porter wrecked Middlesex’s top order with a devastating spell to put Essex on top in their LV= Insurance County Championship game at Lord’s and eclipse Toby Roland-Jones’ seven-wicket haul.

Porter, operating in tandem with seam partner Sam Cook, ended the day with six for 35 and looked virtually unplayable as the pair ripped out Middlesex’s first four batters – all for ducks – to reduce them to a perilous four for four.

That burst followed Roland-Jones’ return of seven for 61 to dismiss Essex for 266, the second-best figures of the Seaxes’ skipper’s career and a performance that ushered him beyond the landmark of 500 first-class wickets.

Ryan Higgins and John Simpson oversaw a spirited recovery with their sixth-wicket stand of 127, but the home side trail by 96 after being bowled out for 170 at stumps.

With Essex resuming on 162 for three, Dan Lawrence looked impatient to reach his hundred as he immediately gave Tim Murtagh the charge and swatted him over the short leg-side boundary.

Lawrence got there with a perfectly-timed straight drive for four off Higgins, but he played across the line at Tom Helm soon afterwards, missed and was trapped in front of middle and leg for 105.

Meanwhile, Matt Critchley survived a close call, almost playing on to Helm and retreated into his shell, taking the best part of two hours to reach double figures as Essex’s scoring rate slowed to a crawl.

They added just nine runs in the 10 overs which preceded the new ball and Roland-Jones – last year’s leading Championship wicket-taker with 67 – made good use of it, picking up three in rapid succession to complete his five-for.

Former Middlesex player Adam Rossington wafted a loose shot into the waiting hands of deep square leg before the captain removed Simon Harmer, leg before shuffling across, and Shane Snater with consecutive deliveries.

The clatter of wickets prompted a more adventurous approach by Critchley, clubbing four boundaries off the first over of the afternoon from Helm to secure a batting bonus point.

However, the Essex tail folded rapidly, with Critchley the last man out for 55 as he top-edged Roland-Jones and wicketkeeper Simpson, running back into the sun, judged the catch perfectly with a flying leap.

But, if Middlesex appeared to have the upper hand, that notion was dispelled inside the opening over of their reply as Porter pinned Sam Robson plumb lbw with his first ball before his third pierced Pieter Malan’s defences.

Stephen Eskinazi followed in Porter’s next over, caught down the leg side and, when Mark Stoneman edged Sam Cook to first slip for the fourth successive duck of the innings, the home side were reeling.

That was the first time since 1975, when Surrey’s bowlers inflicted an identical blow against Lancashire, that a Championship side’s top four had all failed to score.

It took Middlesex almost five overs to muster a run off the bat, with Max Holden pushing a single on the off side and the left-hander reached six before he was taken low in the slips to become Porter’s fourth victim.

The Seaxes’ position might have been even more precarious, had Rossington clung onto Simpson’s edge when he had scored five, but he and Higgins gradually saw off the opening pair and launched a counter-attack.

Having edged Porter past his stumps to get off the mark, Higgins was the more aggressive of the pair, reaching his half-century from 62 balls and dispatching Harmer for four to ensure the follow-on was averted.

But the Essex spinner got his man late in the day, bowling Higgins for 70 before Porter returned to collect two more wickets, including that of Simpson who miscued to mid-on for 63.

Day One Highlights:

Day One Report:

Dan Lawrence was the highlight as Essex had the better of a truncated, gloomy opening day of the LV = Insurance County Championship season against newly-promoted Middlesex.

Lawrence, a man still on the fringes of England selection despite a dismal 2022 Championship season where he averaged only 22.10, showed little of the aggressive intent so much in vogue and survived a chance when 32 in reaching 74 not out in a score of 162-3 before bad light and rain intervened for the final time.

He shared a stand on 121 with skipper Tom Westley, while it was hard work for the home bowlers, new skipper Toby Roland-Jones the pick with two for 42.

The opening day began amid news Andrew Strauss’ High Performance Review had been consigned to history.

Perhaps more pertinently changes to the point-scoring system mean only five will be awarded for a draw and batting sides are now required to score 450, not 400 for maximum points.

The hope is for more aggressive batting akin to England’s Test approach, despite the season starting on April 6 under grey skies at Lord’s with rain in the air.

Eyes too were on opening batters, the accepted wisdom being any England vacancy is at the top of the order, assuming Jonny Bairstow isn’t shoehorned into the role as soon as he returns from injury.

With Essex losing the toss and being inserted by Roland-Jones such a backdrop was of little relevance to Sir Alastair Cook – legend of a different England era – while opening partner Nick Browne is probably not on the radar.

Nevertheless, the pair rattled along early on, despite the gloom, but this had more to do with the friendly offerings served up by Roland-Jones and Tim Murtagh, who was uncharacteristically loose from his beloved Nursery End, than any regard to chasing the bonus points.

Neither though entertained us for long, Cook the victim of a leg-side strangle, while Brown fell to the very next ball, Robson holding a fine catch above his head. Infuriatingly for Browne and the visitors, he hadn’t reached the boundary rope before the rain came, the first of two interruptions to a much-truncated morning.

Their demise brought Lawrence to the crease, a man with a case to make as one on the England fringes. He began fractiously, surviving an injudicious charge down the wicket before Robson dropped him at slip. To rub salt in the wounds, the right-hander drove luckless bowler Murtagh gloriously straight for four in the very next over.

Such shows of flamboyance were rare through much the afternoon as circumspection superseded daring-do, but in harness with Westley, Lawrence batted the visitors into a position of strength, reaching 50 from 113 balls with seven fours.

The 100 partnership was delayed by tea-time rain, but on the resumption, Lawrence expanded his repertoire, flat-batting Roland-Jones calypso style through the covers before advancing to the next ball and lofting it over the same region.

Westley remained becalmed if untroubled and it was a surprise when he slashed the persevering Roland-Jones to backward point to depart for 48.

Soon afterwards the light closed in before the rain came again and play was abandoned for the day.