Michael Carberry closed in on a first Specsavers County Championship of the season with a fine 84 not out on the second day against Middlesex. The Hampshire opener is making his first Ageas Bowl appearance in the Championship since he was diagnosed with cancer last June.
Carberry guided his side into a strong position as they replied to Middlesex’s 356 – the Home side ending the day 148 runs in arrears with six wickets remaining.Carberry showed off his attritional side, wearing down Tim Murtagh, Steven Finn and Toby Roland-Jones in his crab-like style he saves for when he knows the pitch has gremlins.
His blocking and leaving, especially against the troublesome Roland-Jones in his first spell, helped forge partnerships with Jimmy Adams, Liam Dawson and Sean Ervine. Opening partner Adams played the role of defender leaving his long-standing friend to free his arms a little.
The duo added 57 for the opening stand before Adams got a regulation edge off Ollie Rayner to give James Franklin a simple snaffle.
The same two Middlesex players reversed their roles to see off James Vince – the England man tempted too far into the corridor of uncertainty to find a thick edge, kicking the ground on his exit.
The hallmarks of a good Carberry innings is his cutting and pulling, and while the former was forthcoming with genius precision, the latter was made to wait.
But when the big pull shot came it was a doozy, shot of the day, as he swivelled in style and connected with pure cleanness off Murtagh to see his shot slam into the advertising hoardings – never seeming to deviate from about five metres off the ground.
Carberry’s fifty came from 154 balls – brought up, obviously, with a stinging cut to the boundary – one of 12 shots which reached the fence in one form or another.
Liam Dawson was not best pleased when umpire Jeremy Lloyds lifted his finger to the last ball before tea, with the batsman adjudged to have tickled one behind off Rayner.
His longest standing partner turned out to be Sean Ervine – with the pair scoring at the quickest rate of a slow-going day. Ervine was pleased to see Carberry back in the runs, "“Carbs has been brilliant, he has been hitting the ball well since he’s come back. Form is temporary, class is permanent, and he is showing his class. Hopefully Carbs can get a big one and we build some partnerships.
The Zimbabwean scored a 70-ball fifty and like Dawson appeared impenetrable until Finn returned to the attack with six overs left in the day to make him play on: “I felt a lot better and am pleased to get over the 50 mark but was disappointed to get out. I would have liked to push on and scored century."
Kyle Abbott, jumping up the order with Rilee Rossouw dropping right down with a chipped finger, looped a simple chance to Sam Robson at gully but the ball somehow hit the turf.
Earlier, Middlesex were bowled out for 356 – with Brad Wheal ending up with figures of four for 98 for the hosts. Kyle Abbott had the first of the four wickets left over from the first day – when he found James Franklin feeling a foot outside off-stump – the ball daggering to James Vince at third slip.
And despite Roland-Jones hurrying the tail with an exhilarating 38, Wheal accounted for him when he nicked to second slip, Dawson pinned Rayner, before the Scotland international had Steven Finn leg before.
Middlesex spinner Ollie Rayner belives his side worked hard today: "Credit to them, they have batted well but it is a good pitch as well. To be fair the bowlers stuck at is pretty hard as well and I was lucky to get a few overs. Our first plan tomorrow is to get them out for less than us and then see where we are at.”