Seven wickets fall as Higgins stars for Middlesex

Sunday 23rd June 2024
& News
Photography by: David Griffin, report by ECB Writers' Network

Derbyshire bowlers dominated the early stages of Day One at Lord’s, before Middlesex fought back in the final session.

Ryan Higgins again proved the saviour of Middlesex as the hosts fought back from early trouble to post 342-7.

The Zimbabwean-born all-rounder battled to a fourth century of the season from 152 balls, reaching his ton in the grand manner with a six into the Mound Stand as the hosts recovered from 189-6.

Higgins and Seaxes skipper Toby Roland-Jones, whose 51 not out was his first championship half-century for 21 months, rewrote the record books with their unbroken eighth-wicket stand of 112 eclipsing that of 95 by Wilf Slack and Colin Metson set at the County Ground Derby in 1981.

The late plunder was harsh on a Derbyshire attack who were excellent for much of the day, spinner Alex Thomson the pick of the bunch with 2-43.

Middlesex’s decision to bat first on winning the toss was greeted by applause from the home faithful accustomed to seeing them insert opponents this season Ironically, it soon became clear their decision had been made on the sportiest wicket seen at Lord’s this campaign.

Zak Chappell struck in the first over having Sam Robson taken at backward point, the  former England opener back in the hutch without a run on the board. It set the tone for a fascinating morning’s cricket where Derbyshire’s bowlers extracted plenty of life and bounce from a green-tinged surface.

Both Mark Stoneman and Max Holden had uncomfortable moments, the former nicking one from Chappell just short of slip, while the latter slashed another swinging ball from the probing Sam Connors wide of the close-catching cordon.

The hosts appeared to have survived the worst when Stoneman flicked at a delivery wide down the leg-side from Anuj Dal, wicketkeeper Brooke Guest flying to his right to catch.

New batter du Plooy, playing against his former county, and Thomson began a gripping duel in the run-up to lunch, the batter looking fidgety and trying to give the bowler the charge, the spinner countering, mixing some tempting tossed up deliveries with others fired in short to stop his former teammate in his tracks.

Holden was becalmed either side of lunch as the ball began to swing under increasing cloud cover and his patience ran out as he slashed a wide one to Aneurin Donald at slip.

Again, du Plooy and Higgins weathered a storm, the former unfurling some glorious extra-cover drives and playing a delicious late cut through third in advancing to his half-century.

Thomson though proved his nemesis, when du Plooy got too far away from one that bounced and gave Guest another catch to end a stand of 63.

He’d also account for Nathan Fernandes before tea, a ball too close to cut, flying to Wayne Madsen at slip and when Jack Davies edged through to Guest five balls after the interval, Middlesex were 189-6.

An unusually subdued Higgins, who’d been given a life on 33 when Donald grassed a chance at slip from a reverse sweep off Thomson, found sufficient rhythm to move through to 50 with five fours. Luke Hollman kept him company for a while before edging one from Daryn Dupavillon to the diving Madsen at slip.

With that, Higgins began to chance his arm and ride his luck, twice edging through the gap in the slip cordon to the fence at third, and with Toby Roland-Jones reviving memories of bygone days bat in hand with a couple of dreamy cover-drives the pair rattled up a 50-partnership in good time.

The skipper broke his bat digging out a Conners yorker and the change proved fruitful as he sent the next delivery over the short boundary into the Mound Stand. He later repeated the feat to raise the second batting bonus point and to compound Derbyshire’s growing frustration Higgins was reprieved a second time on 88 when a chance above head high at second slip fell to earth, Dupavillon the unlucky bowler.

He made the most of the let-off to reach his hundred in the death throes of the day, Roland-Jones’ landmark following shortly afterwards.

Zak Chappell said: “We did a lot right, had a good morning and a good afternoon and then in the evening session when we took the new ball the wheels fell off a little bit.

“If we can get a few wickets early and put some pressure on with the bat, then we’ll be in good stead.”

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