Essex left with mountain to climb after champions Middlesex dominate in County Championship game
Stevie Eskinazi hit five of his last nine balls for six and the equally in-form opening pair of Sam Robson and Nick Gubbins added a quickfire 146-run stand to their first innings partnership of 241 after champions Middlesex chose not to enforce the follow on against outclassed Essex at Lord’s.
Eskinazi, the No 3 who joined Robson and Gubbins in hitting centuries in Middlesex’s huge first innings 507 for seven declared, thumped a whirlwind 62 from 34 balls – going to his fifty in the course of swatting three successive sixes off Jamie Porter.
Robson made a fluent 77 from 84 balls and Gubbins hit two sixes in a 62-ball 64 when Middlesex opted to bat again, despite earning a 212-run lead by dismissing Essex for 295, Steven Finn taking four for 51.
Middlesex’s second innings declaration came after a sprint to 239 for three from 36 overs and, by stumps, needing a surely academic 452 to win, Essex were 19 without loss.
Earlier, a fighting sixth-wicket stand of 127 between Dan Lawrence and Adam Wheater was the only resistance of note that Essex could offer against the county champions.
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Wheater scored a punchy 64, while impressive 19-year-old Lawrence was ninth out for 75. In all, he stayed for four and three-quarter hours, facing 185 balls.
Paceman Finn bowled Neil Wagner for three to polish off the innings and Essex lost their last five wickets for 42 runs.
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Essex began day three on 120 for four, needing another 238 runs to avoid the follow-on, and were soon in deep trouble at 126 for five when Ravi Bopara (six) edged Roland-Jones to Robson at third slip.
Wheater then survived three sharp chances nicked off Roland-Jones, before Rayner made the breakthrough in mid-afternoon, the batsman slog-sweeping to square leg where Eskinazi showed remarkable reflexes to twist and grab the ball on the rebound after initially looking as if he had only managed to parry it.
Tim Murtagh and Finn, three times, then struck with the second new ball to remove Ryan ten Doeschate, Harmer, Lawrence and Wagner in quick succession.
Ten Doeschate (20) and Lawrence were both lbw, while Harmer (1) mishit a pull to mid-wicket.
Middlesex head coach Richard Scott said: “We decided not to enforce the follow on because our bowlers had sent down almost 100 overs in their first innings, and we wanted to give them a session’s rest so they could come back again strong this evening and also have the chance of bowling fresh tomorrow morning.
“Our batters actually did brilliantly to accelerate the scoring rate and get us a lead of 450 in time for us to have six overs at them before stumps. There’s a bit of variable bounce but the pitch is playing well and we’re hoping there is some cloud cover on the last day so the ball might swing a bit more and we get a bit more lateral movement.”
Adam Wheater, the Essex wicketkeeper-batsman, said: “We tried to slow the scoring rate in their second innings but their top three all played really well and with the small boundary on one side it is hard to defend it. We just have to bat well tomorrow and you never know what can happen.”