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17 Dec 2018, Edition - 1252, Monday

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All-round brilliance of James Harris drives Middlesex to win over Northants

The Guardian

And so the first spoils of the 2018 Specsavers County Championship went to Middlesex, champions of 2016 but demoted to Division Two last September. They defeated Northamptonshire by 160 runs just after lunch on the third day – Northants never able to recover from their blink-and-you’ll-miss-it first innings of 71.

It was an astonishing game for James Harris, who scored the most runs in the match, made the highest score and, with four for 39 in Northamptonshire’s second innings, and nine for 48 in all, took the most wickets in the game too. It was a good start also for Tim Murtagh, eight for 64 in the match and due to make his Test debut for Ireland against Pakistan in May.

The Northamptonshire captain, Alex Wakely, was phlegmatic. He said: “There were two balls going past the edge every over and you always thought there was probably one with your name on it.”

The wicket-fest at Canterbury was halted by bad light with Gloucestershire 61 for one, needing another 47 runs to win. With 153 in their second innings, Kent more than doubled their first-innings effort, with quick runs for Daniel Bell-Drummond (61) and Zak Crawley (32). But it never looked quite enough. Ryan Higgins took five for 22, his maiden five-fer for Gloucestershire.

Due west, at the Ageas Bowl in Division One, a ninth-wicket partnership of 72 between Brad Wheal and Kyle Abbot put Hampshire in the driving seat. Worcestershire were 59 for three at the close, still 265 runs short of victory, with three wickets for Abbot to go alongside his earlier 51.

At Old Trafford, Lancashire were wobbling when rain and skies as thick as gravy stopped play at tea. Haseeb Hameed and Keaton Jennings had survived a torrid opening spell from the belt-and-braces pairing of Jake Ball and Luke Fletcher, before Hameed was out pushing forward to Gurney for 19 and Davies fell for a five-ball duck. Lancashire still trail Nottinghamshire by six runs, with eight wickets remaining. Nottinghamshire’s tidy first-innings lead of 64 was due largely to a patient little scrap from Tom Moores and 44 from Riki Wessels. There were three wickets each for Liam Livingstone, Joe Mennie and Tom Bailey.

Warwickshire’s 299 was the closest any team got to 300, thanks to a last-wicket partnership of 77 between Tim Ambrose and Chris Wright at Edgbaston. In reply Sussex were 194 for six thanks to a superb spell of bowling from Olly Stone, who took all six wickets to go down on his home Championship debut for Warwickshire, including a spell of four for 11 in 13 balls. Stone is startlingly quick, his career plagued by injury, including a strain to his knee he sustained while celebrating the wicket of Moeen Ali in a T20 in 2016. He missed more than a year of cricket, but a winter in Perth seems to have done him good.

There was no play all day again at Headingley and mutterings about the effect the new stand was having on the outfield led to the chief executive, Mark Arthur, issuing a statement: “There is no issue with the drainage system.”