Aug 3 2012 By Jon Batham
LV COUNTY CHAMPIONSHIP DAY TWO
Warwickshire trail by 230 with eight wickets in hand
NOT FOR the first time at Uxbridge this season it was a story of dropped catches for Middlesex against on Day two against Warwickshire.
Six catches were shelled in their last fixture at Gatting way against Nottinghamshire last month and two more critical opportunities were grassed yesterday as Middlesex lost the initiative against the league leaders.
The unfortunate Ollie Rayner was the guilty party on both occasions and the men reprieved Jim Troughton and Ian Westwood took full advantage of the let off, adding an unbeaten 152 for the third wicket to rescue the visitors from a sticky start.
All this came after Middlesex’s last pair had come close to re-writing the counties record books for a 10th wicket stand against Warwickshire in an entertaining if rain-interrupted morning session.
The hosts began on 324-7 and in search of a fourth batting point, but those hopes soon looked slim as Chris Woakes dismissed both of the overnight batsmen Rayner and Ollie Roland-Jones to catches behind by Tim Ambrose, leaving Middlesex 330-9.
Tim Murtagh strolled out to join Steven Crook and the pair mixed common sense with aggression to guide their side to the magic number of 350.
By the time of a 40-minute break for rain the score had risen to 367-9 and the fun – or frustration from a Warwickshire perspective continued on the resumption helped by the clumsy hands of Boyd Rankin who dropped a sitter of a skier from the bat of Crook when the ex-Lancashire man had 16.
The miss allowed Middlesex to reach the prosperity of 402 before Crook chanced his arm once too often giving Darren maddy a comfortable catch at short mid-wicket.
The stand had realised 72, just one short of the record against the Bears set by Robert Robins and Frederick Durston at Edgbaston back in 1925.
Bouyed by his 36 in the last wicket heroics, Murtagh, had further cause for celebration on his 31st birthday when he grabbed two early wickets in Warwickshire’s reply.
First Varun Chopra was pinned LBW for only three and when Murtagh’s Irish team-mate Will Porterfield miscued a drive to short mid-wicket Neil Dexter took a smart low catch to leave the visitors reeling at 26-2.
Then came the day’s pivotal moment with the score at 32 as new batsman Troughton, scorer of a century in each of the previous two championship fixtures, nick another excellent Murtagh seamer.
It looked a routine chance, but instead of relaxing the hands Rayner was over anxious, snatched at the ball and saw it bounce off his knuckle before just failing to gather in the rebound.
Troughton had just two at the time but would finish the day unbeaten on 60 not out patiently made in 10 minutes short of four hours.
Meanwhile Westwood survived some early playing and missing and ground on relentlessly after the shine disappeared from the ball to reach 50 from 130 balls.
Shortly afterwards he sustained a survived a scary moment when he was hit on the helmet by a short lifting ball from Roland-Jones. It left him with a swelling above the left eye, but he continued after lengthy treatment.
Whether the incident broke his concentration who can say, but on 55 he was to receive his stroke of good fortune as he mistimed a pull to backward point where the luckless Rayner got hands on the ball but could not hold it.
It was Middlesex’s last sniff of the day as Westwood finished 89 not out.
Just seven overs remain to be bowled this morning before the second new ball which should prove crucial to the destiny of this match.