Apparently there’s some bigwig American family staying close to Lord’s which means that roads around Regents Park are closed off, protected by armed police as are parts of the park itself. But the theme of safety first seems to have spread itself along the St. John’s Wood Road and into the Pavilion.
Sussex start the day with a lead of 30 runs and buckets of wickets in hand having dominated in all areas yesterday except for the toss!
Through Brown and van Zyl they grind down the Middlesex team through to lunch by which time both have their half centuries with van Zyl looking set for a century. Middlesex look dejected, the bowling at best mediocre, Rayner looking as if he’s going through the motions and the whole team just hoping that something will happen sometime and a collapse will follow and put them out of their misery.
After lunch, Brown accelerates from 50 to 90 in no time as the new ball only has the effect of making batting easier, runs scored faster and the prospect of any wickets being taken ever more remote.
Brown duly scores a good hundred before falling shortly thereafter whilst van Zyl already has his century under his belt and looks set for more. A few wickets fall but this brings Will Beer to the wicket and the prospect of Middlesex batting soon before tea gets higher. However, Beer has other ideas and, to his immense credit, plays within his limits of strokes and shots whilst van Zyl reaches and passes 150 and the grinding down of the opposite side continues.
After tea, Beer scores his maiden championship 50, equalling his first class best, van Zyl improves his championship best with 173 (more by himself than all eleven of Middlesex!) and the lead stretches still further. The biggest prize for Middlesex is Roland-Jones first maiden in the 25 overs he’s bowled which have gone for over 100! It’s that sort of day for them!
With a lead of 343 and 4 overs left in the day, the declaration comes. I appreciate safety first but this is bordering on insanity. The batting after tea almost came to a halt, the bowling was humdrum beyond description and the game meandered meaninglessly; not even a change of gloves and messages from the captain – all sense of urgency or goals was lost.
The worst case for Sussex would be for Middlesex to score over 500 by lunch on Day 4 and to have to chase 200 or so in two sessions. Given that Middlesex have been outplayed in every area except tossing, that doesn’t seem likely.
Even when it comes to limbering up mid-innings, Sussex have the callisthenics down to a fine art so much so that their quicks must be contortionists!
Middlesex had everything to lose and nothing to gain from a nasty four over session before the close but in that time, the Sussex bowlers looked more menacing than all of the home side had done in the previous 120+.
What is noticeable is the different team ethic and approach between the sides. Ok, Middlesex are down and probably out but Sussex seem to be better organised, have a whole team approach (inc coaching staff) and a visible determination to win promotion and from what I’ve seen…they and Lancashire should get it. They may need to take more risks as the season progresses and less safety first…but then if it’s in the neighbourhood, then who you’re gonna call…?