Run-fest ends in inevitable Middlesex-Sussex draw

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Middlesex and Sussex maintained their status as Vitality County Championship Division Two promotion front-runners as their match at Lord’s petered out into a draw.

It looked inevitable that the spoils would be shared once the home side had avoided the follow-on early on the final day and they went on to post 613 for nine declared in reply to Sussex’s total of 554 for nine.

Nathan Fernandes missed out on a century by nine runs, while Jack Davies struck a career-best 68 and Henry Brookes registered his first half-century as a Middlesex player, with off-spinner Jack Carson taking four for 166.

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Captains Leus du Plooy and John Simpson shook hands at 4.50pm, with the draw enabling Sussex to extend their advantage at the top to eight points over Middlesex.

Jack Carson celebrates with skipper John Simpson (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)Jack Carson celebrates with skipper John Simpson (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Jack Carson celebrates with skipper John Simpson (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Sussex head coach Paul Farbrace said: “It was a tough last day – it’s frustrating when you end up going through the motions but those games happen and you have to move on to the next one. We tried our best, it was pretty sensible bowling all day and it’s a shame when there’s not a lot in the pitch but that happens sometimes, it was a slow surface with not a lot of pace or bounce and both teams found it hard to get wickets.

“There were opportunities when we started bowling, we were a little bit unlucky perhaps, going past the edge a fair bit. We’ve said for two years we want to be promoted and be in Division One. There’s plenty of good cricket to be played before it’s decided who’s going to go up but we want to be there or thereabouts.

“Seven games in, to be in the position we’re in is fantastic. We’re right up there with three games won out of seven, two others where the weather went against us when we were in a good position and one pretty tough defeat to Glamorgan. But we’re certainly not getting carried away with ourselves – we know there are some good teams in Division Two who will also be looking at it and saying they’re not in a bad position at the turn.”

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Any faint prospect of a positive outcome essentially disappeared as early as the third over of the morning, when Fernandes clipped Fynn Hudson-Prentice for two to steer Middlesex past the follow-on target of 405.

With their over rate in negative territory the previous evening, Sussex were soon utilising spin at both ends and the seventh-wicket pair continued to chip away at the deficit as they built a partnership of 119.

Having swept Carson over the short boundary for six, Davies overtook his previous best of 65, but added just three more before he was out in the off-spinner’s next over to a ball that turned away from him and took the edge.

Fernandes looked assured against both seam and spin, cutting and sweeping confidently to usher his side’s total beyond 500 and move within range of what would have been a second first-class century.

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The left-hander gained a reprieve when he was put down at backward square leg, pulling a short ball from Tom Clark – but he failed to take advantage, repeating the stroke to the next delivery and this time James Coles dived to take a tumbling catch in the deep.

The remainder of the afternoon largely involved batting practice for the Middlesex tail, with Sussex deploying nine bowlers and at one stage setting a field with all nine men ranged in a semi-circle on the off side.

Luke Hollman shared a sedate ninth-wicket partnership of 65 with Brookes, which eventually came to an end when the left-hander was bowled around his legs by Ollie Robinson’s slower ball.

However, Brookes completed his half-century – the sixth of his career – after tea, swatting Coles’ full toss into the grandstand and finishing 52 not out as he and Ethan Bamber steered Middlesex to the 12th highest total in their history.

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