Dexter finds the right formula
For the second time this month, Neil Dexter placed an obstacle in the way of title-chasing Warwickshire as Middlesex made 287 on the opening day of the LV= County Championship clash at Edgbaston.
The Division One leaders had time to make 21 without loss in reply before a burst of heavy rain ended play with 16.5 overs still to bowl.
Dexter’s unbeaten 84 in the recent meeting at Uxbridge was only his second half-century of the season and his 101 today took him to three figures in the championship for the first time in 16 months.
Having led Middlesex to promotion last season, he temporarily gave up the captaincy in order to concentrate on his batting after a lean start to the summer.
The way he played here, posting his first 50 with 10 fours from 52 balls, would suggest that the hard work is coming to fruition. In all, he hit 17 boundaries before he was out leg before to Boyd Rankin’s second delivery after tea.
On another day, Dexter’s cutting - which was also a sign of some wayward bowling by the title hopefuls - might have led to Middlesex taking an early grip on the game.
However, a number of batsmen contributed to their dismissals and they were bowled out soon after tea having been put in to bat.
Warwickshire’s cricket was perhaps not as relentless as might be expected of a side who head the table by 11 points with a game in hand.
Their seamers were responsible for 11 no-balls and two wides, but some measure of control was achieved by loan signing Ian Blackwell as Middlesex lost their last five wickets for 71 after Dexter’s partnership of 95 with Adam Rossington.
Out of the frame at Durham - with the exception of a career-best 7-52 against Australia A this month - Blackwell was brought in by Warwickshire as spin cover when New Zealand called up Jeetan Patel for two Tests in India.
A return of 4-47 on debut was a timely boost as the seamers struggled for a breakthrough in the afternoon.
Rossington sparked off Middlesex’s slump by carving a loose delivery to backward point and Steven Crook, the only other lower-order batsman to make an impact with 27, drove to short extra-cover.
Both captains would probably have chosen to bowl first. Opener Sam Robson, with 60 from 73 balls, played well enough to question Warwickshire’s choice on winning the toss, but, like Dawid Malan, he gloved a leg-side catch to wicketkeeper Tim Ambrose.
It all added up to a lively morning with four wickets for Warwickshire’s pace attack and close to a five-runs-an-over start by Middlesex.
In response, Warwickshire openers Varun Chopra and Ian Westwood ensured there were no setbacks before play was prematurely ended for the day.