NEWS

Middlesex win Specsavers County Championship in sensational finish

September 26, 2016

Middlesex are county champions for the first time since 1993 after one of the most thrilling finishes in the history of the competition, as they, Yorkshire and Somerset all went into the final few overs of the season with a realistic chance of the title.

Less than five overs remained in the dramatic shoot-out between Middlesex and Yorkshire when Toby Roland-Jones completed a hat-trick by bowling Ryan Sidebottom to secure a 61-run win, following a collapse that ended Yorkshire's hopes. Had Yorkshire's last pair held out, the celebrations would have been taking place in Taunton instead.

Middlesex went into the final round of matches on top of the table, with Yorkshire needing to win and pick up sufficient bonus points to overhaul them. In the meantime, Somerset were in with a chance of their first ever county title, although they needed a win over relegated Nottinghamshire as well as a draw at Lord's.

Somerset managed their part of the equation by winning easily with a day to spare. Skipper Chris Rogers made centuries in both innings before announcing his retirement from professional cricket. After that, they could only watch, wait and hope.

At Lord's, Yorkshire defied a typically flat Lord's pitch to bowl Middlesex out for 270, with only a century by Nick Gubbins stopping the reigning champions from taking total control.

In response, Yorkshire needed to reach 350 to get the batting points to stay in the hunt and after Toby Roland-Jones dismissed Alex Lees, Gary Ballance and Captain Andrew Gale for ducks to reduce the visitors to 32-3, it was all-rounder Tim Bresnan who rescued the situation, making a superb unbeaten 142. Yorkshire lost nine wickets before reaching their crucial target, but eventually led by 120.

At that point, Yorkshire smelt blood and as Middlesex collapsed to 2-2 a championship hat-trick loomed. However, Gubbins and Dawid Malan batted out the day and although Gubbins missed out on a second century when he fell for 93, Malan passed three figures and the match seemed destined for a draw.

In order to make a game of it, the captains agreed on some declaration bowling and the score mounted as the likes of Lees and Adam Lyth lobbed down a series of pies that were duly despatched to the boundary. Contrived it may have been, but it enabled Middlesex to declare and set Yorkshire 240 from 38 overs.

Yorkshire did their best, but gradually the run-rate crept up and the shots became more adventurous, offering more chances to the home side. And as the visitors kept on swinging, the wickets tumbled, setting up the sensational finish.

Fans missing their cricket after the dramatic climax can already book corporate hospitality for big games next year, such as the ICC Champions Trophy games at the Kia Oval and Edgbaston.

While Middlesex celebrated, there were sighs of relief for Warwickshire and Lancashire after both avoided relegation to the second division following their head-to-head clash at Edgbaston. Warwickshire won a low-scoring game, but Hampshire had to beat Durham to stay up and relegate Lancashire. Instead, Mark Stoneman and Scott Borthwick marked their final appearances for Durham by making 137 and 88 respectively to steer the visitors to their target of 296 with six wickets to spare.

By Sam Coates

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