Middlesex began their Specsavers County Championship title defence with a hard-fought draw with Hampshire – after tail-enders Toby Roland-Jones, Ollie Rayner and Tim Murtagh magnificently saved them from defeat.
Hampshire had looked set to ease to victory after three wickets with the second new ball but the visitors held on at the Ageas Bowl.
Both sides took 10 points to give each an unbeaten start to the season – after Hampshire had beaten Yorkshire in the opening round.
Middlesex had been in defensive mood throughout the fourth day with a slender lead of 27, with six wickets in hand, going into the day.
Adam Voges and night-watchman Steven Finn saw off the first 57 minutes of the morning in defensive style.
Voges in particular looked unmovable, with a desperate lbw shout against him the closest the hosts can to an early scalp.
Finn, who had been prolific in his blocking, was the only wicket to in the morning when he was caught out by substitute fielder Fraser Hay at mid-wicket – after a cunning Brad Wheal short-ball plan paid off.
Voges was joined by John Simpson and the duo added an important 35, with the potential required runs for Hampshire ever chipping further from sight.
The Australian moved carefree through a 115 ball half century – as Hampshire took their foot off the gas approaching the second new cherry.
The wait was worth it as they struck just three deliveries into the ball’s life – Voges chasing Kyle Abbott on the cut to edge behind.
In doing so, Voges became the fifth to pass the mark and fall short of three figures and also the third batsman to fall in their 90s in the match.
Only two more runs were scored before James Franklin clipped Abbott to Jimmy Adams at second slip with a delightful delivery.
Gareth Berg pulled out the delivery of the day when he managed to get one to spit off a length to send Simpson back caught behind just five balls later.
But that is where the game ended as a contest as Roland-Jones took the sting out with a time-consuming yet run-scoring 25.
The Wisden Cricketer of the Year did depart when he clipped Wheal to Adams while attempting a slog pull.
If Hampshire had taken the last wicket quickly there was still time for a thrilling chase but a perplexing over from Wheal, which saw Tim Murtagh pull three time straight down the ground.
But the pair added an unbeaten 26, with 63 put on for the last two stands, before hands were shaken at 4:50pm.
DAY FOUR - TEA UPDATE
After patiently waiting for the 80 over mark with Liam Dawson and Sean Ervine bowling off spin, it needed just three balls to strike.
Abbott tempting Adam Voges outside his off-stump – the Australian becoming the third man of the match to fall in the 90s, after departing for 92.
James Franklin and John Simpson were both accounted for with stunning deliveries within five balls of each other, Abbott find the thick of the former before Berg produced the ball of the game to find a feather.
Toby Roland-Jones scored 25 quickly, before a mistimed pull, as Middlesex added 63 for the final two wickets.
DAY FOUR - LUNCH UPDATE
Middlesex 356 & 184-5 lead Hampshire 438 by 102 runs
Adam Voges guided Middlesex towards safety with an unbeaten 73 as the visitors look to extend their unbeaten run at the Ageas Bowl.
Voges made fifty in 115 balls as his watchful innings kept Hampshire at bay for the majority of the morning session.
The closest Hampshire got to seeing off the seemingly unmoveable Australian was an early lbw appeal when he was on 29 – the umpire refusing to budge to Kyle Abbott’s appeals.
Steven Finn had provided 57 minutes of blocking, after coming in as a night-watchman yesterday, as he frustrated Hampshire.
But a well-thought out plan by James Vince saw Brad Wheal dig into Finn’s ribcage to force him to stab a catch to substitute fielder Fraser Hay at mid-wicket.
Voges and John Simpson guided Middlesex to lunch unhindered as the game started to look like it was heading for a draw - with the lead at 102
DAY THREE - CLOSE OF PLAY
Middlesex 356 & 111-4 lead Hampshire 438 by 29 runs
Michael Carberry and Rilee Rossouw agonisingly missed out on centuries but Hampshire remained in the control against Middlesex at the Ageas Bowl.
The pair produced magical and brave innings before a rare moment of ill-judgement saw them off for 98 and 99 respectively.
Despite the near misses the hosts stayed on top thanks to Kyle Abbott’s evening mini-blitz on the visitor’s top-order – Middlesex ending the day 29 runs ahead.
The day began with Carberry falling two runs short of a much merited and universally wanted century – after waiting since May last year to taste three figures in the Specsavers County Championship, after missing the second half of last season through cancer treatment.
He watchfully negotiated the nearly overs, desperate not to gift his wicket away, after starting the day on 84.
But two balls after moving to 98 with a thick edge through the slip cordon he opened his shoulders for the first time since the previous evening – but tickled behind – leaving the Ageas Bowl in stunned silence.
Abbott, elevated to night-watchman on day two, had been in flowing mood on the drive throughout the morning and reached his maiden Championship fifty off 77 balls.
He had put on 80 with Carberry before the opener and Lewis McManus fell soon after each other – the wicket-keeper gloving to third slip.
Carberry’s dismissal had brought Rossouw to the crease, after being forced to flee down the order due to a chipped finger in his left hand.
The South African was bashed twice on the same hand twice during his counter-attacking stand with Berg – the pair adding 86 for the eighth wicket.
The duo both crashed massive sixes in a speedy stand before Berg was caught and bowled by Dawid Malan, with Brad Wheal being caught behind next ball.
Rossouw was inexplicable dropped by Dawid Malan in the covers – the ball barely picking up speed off the bat to loop through the fielder’s hands.
Fidel Edwards, who injured his hamstring while bowling, completed a walking wounded partnership for the last wicket.
Brave Rossouw had often needing to lift his bottom hand off the bat – but after taking on a never-there two he was run out by Sam Robson – he became the second agonising near miss of the day.
With Hampshire leading by just 82 after the first innings, it looked like a draw was almost guaranteed on the final day – but Abbott had other ideas.
The former Test star ripped through Robson with a beauty which seemed to grow and straighten on the opener.
He then accounted for Nick Gubbins with a pearler, his 50th in the Championship, angling slightly across the left hander to kiss the edge of the bat and clip into Jimmy Adams’ hands at second slip.
Abbott almost had a third when Sean Ervine dropped a tough chance at first slip with Stevie Eskinazi on six.
Wheal used his impressive pace to take the third scalp – as Malan left a hooping in-swinger.
Eskinazi and Adam Voges made a recovery to take Middlesex back into the black – but the former's late in the day swipe behind for 45 off Abbott left Hampshire still hoping for victory.
DAY THREE - TEA UPDATE
HAMPSHIRE 438 a/o
MIDDLESEX 365 a/o
Rilee Rossouw heroically batted with a chipped finger but ran himself out on 99 – as Hampshire lead Middlesex by 82 after the first innings.
Rossouw, who had injured his hand on the opening day taking a catch, bravely battled as he wielded his bat as he boosted the hosts’ lead.
The South African brought up his fifty in 77 balls and enjoyed an 86 run stand with Gareth Berg – the pair smashing three huge sixes and seemingly countless boundaries between them.
Kyle Abbott eventually fell for 56 when he gloved Toby Ronald-Jones to first slip, before Lewis McManus fell shortly after.
Berg was the next man to go when he spliced a caught and bowled chance back to Dawid Malan – but not after frustrating the visitors.
Brad Wheal departed next ball, edging behind, before Rossouw – on his Ageas Bowl debut – ran himself out attempting a second run to bowled Hampshire out for 438.
DAY THREE - LUNCH UPDATE
MIDDLESEX 365 a/o
Michael Carberry fell two short of a much deserved century but Hampshire enjoyed a run-filled morning against Middlesex.
Carberry started the day on 84 and remained watchful as he tip-toed towards a first Specsavers County Championship ton since last May – before he was diagnosed with cancer.
But when on 98, a few balls after edging a boundary through the slips, he swiped at a Tim Murtagh delivery outside his off stump to tickle behind.
In his place Kyle Abbott impressed – the South African elevated up the order as a night-watchman - to reach a maiden fifty for the county.
His driving and dabbing to third man particularly appealed to him as he past his previous best Hampshire score of 40 with his landmark coming in 77 balls.
His Kolpak partner Rilee Rossouw batted heroically with a chipped finger – he scored an unbeaten 34 as the duo put on 70 for the sixth wicket
DAY TWO CLOSE OF PLAY
MIDDLESEX 365 a/o
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 pulled his side into a strong position as they replied to Middlesex’s 356 – as they ended 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.
With opening partner Adams he played the role of defender as his long-standing friend could free his arms a little.
The duo added 57 for the opening stand before Adams got a regulation edge on 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.
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.
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.
TEA UPDATE - DAY THREE
MIDDLESEX 356 a/o
Ollie Rayner had his hand in all three Hampshire wickets as Middlesex enjoyed the better of the afternoon session at the Ageas Bowl.
Michael Carberry closed in on first Specsavers County Championship fifty of the summer but saw his upper order colleagues depart around him.
Carberry enjoyed stands with opening partner Jimmy Adams and Liam Dawson to take the hosts to 113 for two at tea.
The former England Test opener took the risk free option for almost the entire session – with close leaves and forward defences his go to options – reaching an unbeaten 46.
The 57 runs he put on with Adams were solid if not spectacular – before Adams poked at spinner Rayner which resulted in a regulation catch for James Franklin at first slip.
Franklin then found the outside edge of James Vince, who frustratingly felt too far outside his stumps, to nick to Rayner at second slip.
But Dawson helped steady the ship after the two quick wickets with Carberry – but departed to the last wicket of the session, after being adjudged lbw to Rayner.
LUNCH UPDATE - DAY TWO
MIDDLESEX 356 a/o
Brad Wheal took two morning wickets to bowl Middlesex out for 356 at the Ageas Bowl.
Toby Roland-Jones and Ollie Rayner had frustrated Hampshire for much of the session as the pair put on 55 for the eighth wicket – in sprightly fashion.
Kyle Abbott had the first of the four wickets of the day – when he found James Franklin feeling a foot outside off-stump – the ball daggering to James Vince at third slip.
Roland-Jones then began his assault, which included lofting Abbott over the ropes, the Wisden Cricketer of the Year eventually falling for 39 when he loosely drove Wheal to a closer in Liam Dawson in the covers.
Dawson kept hold of the ball and with the very next delivery had Rayner leg before, and in the next over Wheal completed the innings by having Steven Finn also lbw.
The visitors narrowly missed out on a fourth batting point, they were six runs short of the magical 350 figure at the end of the 110th over – while the hosts started their blitz in the following over.
Michael Carberry and Jimmy Adams guided Hampshire to lunch in a tricky eight over stint.
CLOSE OF PLAY - DAY TWO
Sam Robson and Steve Eskinazi both scored fifties before getting out in their 80s as Middlesex opened their Specsavers County Championship title defence against Hampshire.
The pair added 105 for the second wicket with both reaching their milestone with unassuming yet not run shy stays at the crease.
But Hampshire, who bowled with a man light for the majority of the day after Fidel Edwards went off injured, battled hard in the evening session to even up the contest – after turning 220 for two into 290for six at the close.
James Franklin decided to have a toss and duly won it and elected to bat – the Middlesex captain looking down not up with overcast skies overshadowed by a decidedly flat looking pitch.
There were cheers from supporters around the ground as a steward unfurled and raised a “Middlesex County Champions 2017” flag above the away dressing room.
Robson has a knack of scoring early season runs – with his first three scores of last season 231, 106, and 99 disproving the general thought of April suiting the swing bowlers.
He began this knock in style clipping Edwards through mid-wicket to the boundary with the first delivery before following up with two further fours soon after.
But the fast paced opening was dulled as Gareth Berg and Kyle Abbott tidied up – with Edwards forced to sit out the rest of the day after his 21st over hamstring injury, after previously pulling out of a delivery in the run-up.
Robson lost his opening partner to a corking ball from West Indian Edwards – the last bowler finding some late movement to find the edge before second slip Rilee Rossouw pulled off a stunning low catch.
Robson was dropped by Rossouw on 40 – which saw the South African miss the rest of the day with a hand injury.
Former England Test opener Robson cut and clipped off his legs in text book style reaching his fifty in 82 deliveries.
After a century stand with Eskinazi, Robson finally departed for 84 when he nicked Berg to Jimmy Adams, standing at second slip in place of Rossouw.
Dawid Malan accompanied Eskinazi, who reached his third first-class fifty in 102 balls, - with the former smashing two sixes.
The evening found Hampshire finally turn a reasonably one-sided day around – with four wickets falling in the session.
Firstly, Malan guided the impressive Brad Wheal to Sean Ervine at first slip, before the Zimbabwean bowled Eskinazi for 82 three overs later – the ball clipping the very top of off-stump.
Adam Voges, who suffered a head injury at the Ageas Bowl last year, scored 24 quickly before he chopped Kyle Abbott onto his own stumps.
John Simpson struggled by scoring just nine in 58 balls before he woftily drove Wheal to substitute fielder Mason Crane at point.
Steve Eskinazi became the second Middlesex player to kick off their season with a half century during a slow going afternoon session against Hampshire.
No.3 Eskinazi joined Sam Robson at the milestone in 106 balls – as the pair stuck on 105 for the second wicket.
The South African-born right handed batsman looked in constant ease against a Hampshire bowling attack a man light.
Hampshire struggled with strike bowler Fidel Edwards still off the field with an apparent hamstring injury – with Kolpak Rilee Rossouw also off the field.
Opener Robson had scored a morning fifty before continuing his vigil with a seemless innings.
He eventually reached 84 before driving at a full ball from Gareth Berg which edged straight to Jimmy Adams at second slip.
Dawid Malan joined Eskinazi, who was 74 not out at tea, and boosted the modest run-rate with a huge six – which travel over the Ageas Bowl concourse and on the Nursery Ground.
MIDDLESEX 84 -1
Sam Robson notched a high quality unbeaten 52 as Middlesex started their title defence with a steady first session of the season against Hampshire.
Former England Test opener Robson began 2016 with a double century, and appeared to enjoy the April conditions again - the right hander reaching his first milestone of the season in 82 balls.
After James Franklin won the toss and decided to bat on what appeared to be a flat track, Middlesex started with a rocket.
Robson in particular took a liking to Fidel Edwards – as he stroked three early boundaries – before the runs dried up with some tighter bowling.
But Edwards returned to strike with a beauty of the delivery, as the ball moved late away from Nick Gubbins to find the edge before Rilee Rossouw snaffled a great chance at second slip.
Edwards walked off the pitch soon after with an apparent injury, before Rossouw dropped Robson off Kyle Abbott.