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Clarke closes in on Lord's century

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Warwickshire kept their hopes of a treble very much alive by reaching 338 for six against Middlesex on the opening day of their LV= County Championship Division One clash at Lord's.

Put in on a pitch offering assistance to the seamers, Warwickshire were lifted into command by Rikki Clarke who ended the day unbeaten on 93, featuring 14 fours.

He frustrated a Middlesex side which several times had their opponents vulnerable - notably at 99 for three and 205 for six - but never induced the sort of collapse which could shape the match.

They have not beaten the Bears in 16 attempts in the championship but have a chance to end that barren run here on a result pitch.

Warwickshire batted with collective defiance. Every batsman from one to eight reached double figures and then in the last session seventh-wicket pair Clarke and Keith Barker, who made 60, added an unbroken 133.

Having chosen to bowl, Middlesex were frustrated at first as openers Varun Chopra and Ian Westwood rode their luck to add 61 in 16 overs. Tim Murtagh and Toby Roland-Jones went unrewarded for some fine deliveries but the early success that eluded them fell Neil Dexter's way as he came on and struck twice in his first five overs.

Chopra, who made 25, played on, and then Westwood, having had plenty of uneasy moments on the way to 24, had his leg stump flattened.

Warwickshire were happy enough to reach lunch at 93 for two, but Middlesex struck two quick blows in the afternoon.

Murtagh jagged one inside the defence of Will Porterfield, who was clearly aggrieved to be adjudged lbw. James Harris won an lbw shout against Sam Hain who played across the line.

Then came the big wicket of Jonathan Trott, who had overcome a sketchy start and was batting with increasing fluency when Dexter dispatched him lbw for 41.

That left Warwickshire on a wobbly 158 for five but 19-year-old wicketkeeper Peter McKay, in for Tim Ambrose who has a bruised thumb, dug in alongside Clarke to take their side to 204 for five at tea.

McKay's resistance ended with his first ball after tea when, having made 28, he missed a straight one from Murtagh.

Not for the first time in the day, the door was ajar for Middlesex but again that vital quick succession of wickets eluded them as Barker joined Clarke to bat through the last 32 overs.

Middlesex did not help themselves by shelling Barker on 30 - the culprit being the unfortunate Ollie Rayner who was dropped from the team before play but sent into the slips for a stint as a substitute fielder, only to grass a sitter off Harris.

All-rounder Clarke said: "It has been a while since we have played a four-day game, so it was interesting to get back to the idea of leaving the ball and blocking it.

"It does take a bit of time to adjust, but that's the job. To be in the situation we are in after the first day, having been put in, we are delighted."

Middlesex's back-up seamer Dexter was pleased to keep his team in the game with three important wickets.

"My bowling is a bonus but it is something I enjoy. My job is just to bowl some maidens and then pick up some wickets if I can and I managed to do that today," Dexter said.

"It has been tough for the bowlers in the last few games and months, especially without Gareth Berg. And we haven't played this format for a while so there might have been a little bit of rust.

"You can't judge a pitch until both teams have batted on it. I think it is a good wicket, but when you have a team 205 for six you want to bowl them out for less than 300."

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