Bamber, Roland-Jones and Murtagh pick up seven wickets in little more than an hour
Middlesex 268 (Robson 95, White 72, Topley 4-56) and 18 for 0 beat Surrey 154 (Murtagh 4-28) and 130 (Burns 54, Roland-Jones 4-29) by 10 wickets
The re-opening of pub beer gardens in the last two weeks has caused a significant blow to Saturday-morning productivity levels for large swathes of London’s population, not least if the stacks of empty plastic pint glasses on St John’s Wood High Street were anything to go by. But Middlesex’s seamers’ efforts on the third day at Lord’s marked them out as outliers, as they took seven wickets before 12.20pm to blow Surrey away and romp home in a derby that had seemed finely poised on Friday evening.
“Bang, bang here, boys,” implored Nick Gubbins from cover as Ethan Bamber stood at the top of his mark at the start of play, but what followed was more like a fusillade: Rory Burns edged the first ball of the day through to John Simpson behind the stumps, and Surrey added only 25 runs to their overnight total as Middlesex rattled through their lower order.
Tim Murtagh had Ben Foakes caught behind and trapped Rikki Clarke in front, and conceded 11 runs in eight unchanged overs from the Nursery End, while Bamber pinned Jamie Smith lbw and Toby Roland-Jones wrapped up the job with three of the last four to finish with 4 for 29. The target was just 17 – just enough for Max Holden to reach his highest score of the season thanks to a couple of crisply-struck boundaries, the second of which sealed the win.
Peter Handscomb, Middlesex’s new captain, didn’t even have time to ask for the words to the team song. “I don’t know what it is, but it’s great,” he said. “To come out the way we did this morning was phenomenal. For Bamber to start with that first ball and get the big wicket of Burns and set the tone was just fantastic.”
It has been a surreal 18 months for Handscomb since he signed for the club, chatting to his future team-mates via WhatsApp and following their progress from afar without being able to meet them in person as restrictions on international travel saw his contract deferred last season. Having watched them slip to a heavy defeat at the Ageas Bowl via Hampshire’s live stream last week while quarantining, victory inside seven sessions represented a near-perfect start – his third-ball duck the only blemish.
“It was nice not to have to go out and face the ball to potentially get a pair on debut for Middlesex,” he laughed. “That was a nice touch. It’s about mentally getting my head around the game and understanding which shots I can and can’t play, and just being able to change that as quickly as possible. We’re figuring out what the Covid restrictions will allow us to do but it’d be nice to be able to get outside and enjoy what is a pretty good win.”
This match was a reminder of the template Middlesex had set during their title-winning season in 2016. Roland-Jones and Murtagh were both key contributors to that side, and while Bamber lacks the point of difference that Steven Finn offered – he is known as ‘Mini Murts’ – he remains penetrative, with 13 wickets already this season. Roland-Jones looked somewhere near his best this week, occasionally finding extra bounce from a length thanks to his height, and Murtagh shows no sign of age as his 40th birthday approaches. Their batting remains brittle, but Sam Robson looks in the form of his life at the top of the order, and Handscomb should add consistency to their middle order.
For Surrey, Saturday was an unmitigated disaster. Their hopes had rested heavily on Burns, but the manner of their collapse after his dismissal portrayed a team low on confidence after two years in which wins have been hard to come by. Foakes and Clark will not look back on their dismissals fondly, playing expansive shots when survival was the key, and Jamie Smith – who scored 11 of their 25 runs in the day – was dropped at second slip before he had got going.
They have lost two of their first three games, with a high-scoring draw against Leicestershire on a flat pitch in the other, and are already a long way off the pace in Group Two. Having racked up 672 for 8 declared last week, they managed 284 for 20 across two innings here. “We bowled well, caught poorly, and too many dismissals were probably self-inflicted,” Alec Stewart, their director of cricket, said. “We created 15 chances in Middlesex’s first innings but we dropped five catches.”
They host early pace-setters Hampshire next week, and will need their top five – all of whom have played Test cricket – to find a way to counter Mohammad Abbas and Kyle Abbott. “There are still seven games to go, and we felt if you win six then you’ll probably go through top [of the group],” Stewart said. “Lee Fortis is a world-class groundsman but he’ll hold his hands up and say it wasn’t the ideal pitch last week. We’ve got to lick our wounds and then re-group to prepare for a game against a good side.”
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98