Lower order leads Middlesex home
Middlesex continued their impressive start to the LV= County Championship season as Gareth Berg and Ollie Rayner carried them to a thrilling three-wicket victory at Derbyshire.
The hosts appeared to be favourites when Middlesex slipped to 197 for six chasing 328 but Berg and Rayner turned the game on its head with a stand of 97 in 24 overs.
Berg, who had claimed six wickets earlier in the match, made 80 from 115 balls before becoming Tony Palladino’s fourth victim, while Rayner finished unbeaten on 58 to secure a second successive Division Two win.
It was an impressive recovery by the visitors after Derbyshire had struck twice in the opening two overs this morning.
Middlesex had added only four runs to their overnight total of 145 for two when Dawid Malan pushed forward at Tim Groenewald’s fifth delivery and was caught behind.
Palladino then trapped Neil Dexter lbw for two to reduce the visitors to 154 for four and shift the balance towards Derbyshire.
Dan Housego had shown composure and sound temperament in the first innings and looked set to prove a considerable obstacle once again as he set about rebuilding the innings alongside John Simpson.
However, with the scoring rate having dropped considerably, it was a tentative shot that finally ended Housego’s stubborn innings. He had faced 110 balls for his 27 when he prodded at Palladino and edged into the gloves of Tom Poynton.
Derbyshire's celebrations showed just how important that wicket was and they had another before lunch when Simpson became a victim of the growing pressure.
He and Berg had scored 21 in 12.4 overs when Simpson went for a big cut at Ross Whiteley but hit it straight to short cover where Dan Redfern held on to give the seamer his first championship wicket.
At lunch, Middlesex were still 112 short of their target, but Berg came out determined to break the stranglehold of the bowlers who had sent down 15 maiden overs in the morning.
He drove Wes Durston's off-spin for six and then responded to Derbyshire’s acceptance of the new ball by cutting Greg Smith’s first delivery to the point boundary.
Berg had taken his side to within 34 runs of victory when he cut Palladino to backward point to give the paceman his ninth wicket in the match.
But Rayner shut the door firmly in Derbyshire's face and drove Whiteley for two consecutive fours to win a pulsating contest shortly after 3pm.