Match Report: Middlesex vs. Kent

Match Report: Middlesex vs. Kent

Kent faced Middlesex at Lord’s in the LV= Insurance County Championship in their final April match of this year’s red-ball season.

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Day Three Report:

Middlesex took the victory at Lord’s after Tim Murtagh recorded a ten-wicket haul in the match to see the end of Kentish defence in the LV= Insurance County Championship.

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Ben Compton and Jack Leaning had dragged Kent back into contention with their solid 87-run partnership before seven wickets tumbled for o22, leaving Middlesex to chase a modest target of 86.

Trailing by just three runs at 40 for two overnight, Kent moved into the lead when Compton nudged Ethan Bamber to the boundary, but overall the morning session proved a tough slog for the batting side, who were restricted to less than two an over.

Tom Helm also induced a sharp edge from Leaning on 33, but Robson, flinging himself to his right at second slip, was unable to complete what would have been a stunning one-handed catch.

However, Robson gobbled up the next chance that came his way to remove Leaning, two short of his half-century, off Ryan Higgins’ bowling and Middlesex seized on that opening by picking up two more wickets before lunch.

The normally free-scoring Jordan Cox was restricted to six from 36 balls before Bamber had him caught at slip and Murtagh struck with the penultimate delivery of the session, pinning Kent captain Sam Billings lbw for a duck.

Compton, who dropped anchor to play a typically obdurate innings of 38 in more than three and a half hours, paid the price for an uncharacteristic lapse just after the interval, dabbing Murtagh straight to gully.

The seamer claimed a five-fer – the 39th of his first-class career – in his next over, knocking back Joey Evison’s off stump and followed that up with his landmark wicket four balls later as Matt Quinn was leg before swinging across the line.

Those sandwiched a second for Bamber, who had Grant Stewart caught behind and last pair Wes Agar and Michael Hogan threw the bat, both depositing Murtagh into the stand to pad out Kent’s paltry total by 19 before Helm belatedly collected his solitary wicket to wrap up the innings.

Robson, having survived a scare when Agar’s first delivery zipped through him and away for byes, gradually settled into the groove with a sweetly-struck cover boundary off Hogan and four more off Quinn.

Although Mark Stoneman perished for 13, slapping Quinn’s half-volley to mid-off, Malan joined forces with Robson for an unbroken partnership of 57 that sealed their side’s win shortly after tea.

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Kent opener Ben Compton, said: “Today was probably the best day for batting. After a very tricky period of 40 minutes that we got through last night, we really hoped to make hay this morning.

“I think we let ourselves down today and we didn’t nail our skills often enough, to be honest. Me and Jack (Leaning) played quite nicely to see off that first hour but to be fair to Middlesex, they were the better team with ball and bat and they played very well.

“People have clicked at different times, but we still haven’t quite come together with a complete team performance, whether that be with bat or ball.

“We’ve got a very strong batting line-up and last year we had three or four guys close on 1,000 runs.

“I just try to do my best opening, which is a tough job in England and I really enjoy batting with Zak (Crawley). We work together quite well at the top because we have different styles and hit the ball in different places.

“We’ve got about a 10-day break now, with Hampshire and Surrey coming up, so those are going to be tough challenges and we need to improve from this week.”

Day Two Report:

A balanced game of cricket poises an interesting Day Three after Kent finish 40/2 in reply to Middlesex’ 229 at Lord’s.

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The day started with Ben Compton and Grant Stewart batting prosperously and Compton reaching his half-century. Stewart contributed heftily amassing 44 runs batting at 8 and the pair produced a seventh wicket 50 run partnership.

However the very next ball Compton was caught behind by wicketkeeper John Simpson whilst attempting a pull shot. After some large six hitting, Stewart fell soon after as catch from Tom Helm took a catch in a million to see the back of him, clinging one-handed to a steepling, swirling top edge at third man.

No further significant contributions left Kent dismissed for 186 in the morning session as Tim Murtagh and Ethan Bamber claimed four wickets apiece.

Middlesex, perhaps buoyed by their successful final innings run chase against Nottinghamshire on Sunday, began with a flurry of boundaries, Mark Stoneman square driving and then cutting wide balls from Agar to the point fence in the first over. Sam Robson caught the mood, driving a trio of balls from Hogan through cover and mid-off.

It would though prove a false dawn as Stoneman fell to the first ball of Agar’s second over, cutting at one far to close to him for the shot.

Pieter Malan failed to build on his 61 in the Notts run chase, surviving two big lbw shouts before perishing to a leg-side strangle almost immediately after lunch.

It sparked the all-too familiar procession of Middlesex’s top order too and from the pavilion to a mixture of good balls and injudicious shot making, stand-in skipper Eskinazi and John Simpson in the former category, while Sam Robson was very much in the latter camp.

At 90-6 the hosts were up against it, but Higgins stood firm, driving the ball confidently and playing with a security which had eluded his teammates higher up the order. Again, not for the first time this season he found an ally in Luke Hollman, the leg-spinning all-rounder hitting cleanly in a stand of 75.

Once Hollman was bowled by Matthew Quinn, Higgins, who reached 50 in 93 balls with seven fours, began swinging for the hills, bludgeoning a six high into the Mound Stand and just clearing the rope with another blow off Agar. He perished attempting to repeat the feat, but Middlesex’s advantage looked useful.

Ryan Higgins’ fourth half century of the season rescued Middlesex following another top-order collapse, his 71 out of a total of 229 granting the Seaxes a first-innings lead of 43 despite 4-60 from Wes Agar.

Tim Murtagh dismissed England opener Zak Crawley for a golden duck and was on a hat-trick on a day of clattering wickets between Middlesex and Kent at Lord’s.

Murtagh, who turns 42 in August, making him the third oldest seamer in county cricket behind Gareth Berg and Michael Hogan, denied Crawley valuable batting time ahead of the first Ashes Test, causing him to fend a shortish ball into the hands of Stephen Eskinazi at slip. The former Ireland international then pinned Daniel Bell-Drummond with the very next ball, forcing Jack Leaning to come out and defend the hat-trick ball.

Murtagh’s spell ended at 2-9, before Leaning and Ben Compton nursed the visitors to 40-2, a deficit of just three when bad light ended play four overs early.

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Kent coach Simon Cook said: “The game has moved on apace. When we got here and had a look at the wicket it looked as if it was going to be a fast moving game. The overhead conditions here when it is cloudy and the lights are on as they have been for most of the match, means it assists the bowlers quite a lot.

“So, it’s a low scoring game and they tend to be nervy. Where we are now with essentially all scores level, if we can get a couple of hundred run lead or 220 lead, it could be a challenging chase.

“I don’t think it is flattening out as such. The spell just now with the new ball with Ethan Bamber and Murtagh in particular posed some challenging questions to Compo (Ben Compton) and Jack (Leaning) and they batted fantastically well to get through and navigate through that period.

“Hopefully if the sun is out tomorrow we may well get a bit of a respite. Most of their bowlers have had nearly 20 overs in their legs today, so the longer we can keep them out there tomorrow, the easier potentially it will become. And if we get that 200 run lead with a day of rest in our bowlers’ legs we should be in a better position to push home the advantage on day four.

“There’s two ways of going about batting on a wicket like this. You can either go as Compo does where he backs his defence in order to occupy the crease and wear down the bowlers, while Grant (Stewart) goes the other way, trying to put the pressure on their bowlers by taking the fight to them. The combination of both worked really well, Compo forcing them to have more overs in their legs, while Grant threw them off a bit with his cameo towards the end there.

“The Middlesex innings followed a similar pattern with Higgins playing a similar role to Grant so the game is in an interesting position.”

Day One Report:

Kent battled against the conditions to end a truncated, rain-affected first day on 113 for six against Middlesex in the LV= Insurance County Championship.

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Ethan Bamber (three for 26) was backed up by player-coach Tim Murtagh, who collected the scalps of England opener Zak Crawley and Sam Billings.

Ben Compton was the only Kent player to enjoy any degree of success in the conditions, batting through for a patient undefeated 38 when bad light and rain curtailed play midway through the afternoon session.

With captain Toby Roland-Jones rested, Stephen Eskinazi took over the reins for Middlesex, fulfilling his first duty by winning the toss and inserting the opposition – which has been their preferred tactic so far this summer.

However, this was the first time the Seaxes’ decision to bowl first had paid immediate dividends as they reduced Kent to 48 for four, with consistent spells by both Bamber and Helm.

The latter made the ball fizz off the surface and almost removed Compton, initially with an edge that flew just short of third slip en route to the boundary and then having a strong lbw shout turned down.

Instead it was Murtagh who made the breakthrough, moving the ball back up the slope to bowl Crawley – who had just dispatched him twice to the short off-side boundary – through the gate for 11.

Bamber gained his reward for a miserly stint at the Pavilion End as Daniel Bell-Drummond flashed hard outside off stump and Eskinazi stretched across at first slip to pluck the ball out of the air.

Jack Leaning was next to depart, taken in the slips prodding forward at Ryan Higgins – who also bowled consistently to return one for 13 – and Bamber struck again in the next over when he uprooted Jordan Cox’s off stump to send him on his way for a fourth-ball duck.

Murtagh kept the pressure on Kent post-lunch, producing an inswinging yorker that pinned Billings in front for 14, but Joey Evison did his best to bring some impetus to the innings with boundaries off Murtagh and Helm.

Evison’s knock was brought to an abrupt end as soon as Bamber rejoined the attack and had the all-rounder caught behind, persuading him to nibble at the first delivery of his second spell.

Grant Stewart – who made his maiden first-class hundred against Middlesex back in 2018 – went for his shots, lifting Bamber into the Mound Stand to reach 16 not out before the light deteriorated and the umpires halted play at 15:00

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Kent Men’s Head Coach Matt Walker said: “We’d like to have bowled. We knew it was going to be pretty overcast, we knew there was rain coming in and the wicket had a green tinge, so good conditions for bowling.

“The pace of their bowlers suited that wicket nicely, they bowled good lengths and it showed – get the ball in the right areas and it’s not easy to score.

“I don’t quite know what a good score is first innings on that wicket, but if we can fight hard to get to somewhere near 200, I think that keeps us in the game. Then we’ve got to bowl how they bowled and show that consistency we haven’t quite shown over the last couple of weeks.

“I thought we played really nicely in that first hour and Compo was holding the fort nicely – playing the same innings you see week in, week out from him. He had an amazing season last year and coming back into your second season can be quite a challenge, sometimes more than the first.

“You see the same output, nothing changes – he trusts his defence hugely and he’s very patient and never gets sidetracked.

“The powers of concentration and discipline he shows are a great example. To have someone like that at the top of the order you can just play around gives everyone great confidence.”

Kent vs. Middlesex turns T20 in June

The Kent Spitfires will welcome Middlesex to ‘Fortress Canterbury’ in a floodlit, Friday night T20 match on 23 June.

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