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JAMES FRANKLIN - ECB REPORTERS NETWORK INTERVIEW

All the ingredients for cricketing drama were there. A thrilling run chase, the title settled by a hat-trick – and undoubtedly the most incongruous dismissal of James Franklin’s career.

Franklin ended that remarkable day – September 23, 2016 – as the first Middlesex captain to lift the County Championship trophy in 23 years after their gripping 61-run win over rivals Yorkshire at Lord’s.

Middlesex will be screening the Sky Sports archive footage of all four days of the match, starting on Thursday, via https://www.middlesexccc.com/news/2020/05/middlesex-v-yorkshire-live-stream-2016-county-championship-decider

With both sides needing victory for the title – a stalemate would have seen Somerset crowned champions instead – Franklin and opposite number Andrew Gale agreed that Yorkshire would chase 240 at a run a ball, leading to one of the more bizarre passages of play ever witnessed by a Lord’s crowd.

White Rose openers Adam Lyth and Alex Lees tossed up a series of long-hops as Middlesex plundered almost 100 runs in seven overs before Franklin, having hit 30 from 14 deliveries, deliberately lobbed a full toss high into Lyth’s hands and immediately declared.

“To me it didn’t feel right, walking off with a not out in that situation, so I gave my wicket away,” recalled the former New Zealand all-rounder.

“It was the first time I’d come across that kind of thing in my career, but it had to happen to get to a point where we could set up the run chase.

“We were still in a slightly vulnerable position, so I was surprised at the early enquiry from Yorkshire – they came to us during the afternoon session – but I was more than happy to play along.

“We felt taking 10 wickets in 30-35 overs would be tough, so the key part of the negotiation was to have them chasing fewer runs. There was a bit of to-ing and fro-ing but we reached a point where both teams were comfortable.

“It was a gentleman’s agreement – there was to be no backing out and I knew Yorkshire would keep going all the way to the bitter end.”

Yorkshire, champions in both the previous seasons, had looked favourites to make it three in a row after building a first-innings lead of 120 and then reducing Middlesex to two for two.

However, Nick Gubbins and Dawid Malan dug the Seaxes out of trouble with a third-wicket stand of 198 on the final morning, prompting the captains to cut a deal.

“There was a mutual respect between Middlesex and Yorkshire – both teams were very well matched and played tough, attacking cricket,” said Franklin.

“We knew we’d win the title by beating Yorkshire, equally they had to beat us. But we were used to that, there hadn’t been a draw between us in the last couple of years and we’d had some ding-dong battles.”

This was to be another in that category, as Tim Bresnan followed up his first-innings century with a knock of 55 that kept the White Rose in the hunt at 153 for four with more than 10 overs remaining.

Yet the tide turned inexorably in Middlesex’s favour when seamer Toby Roland-Jones returned for his second spell and immediately trapped Bresnan leg before.

As promised, Yorkshire continued to chase – but Roland-Jones cleaned up the tail, having Azeem Rafiq caught behind off the last ball of the 34th over and then bowling Andy Hodd and Ryan Sidebottom with the first two deliveries of his next.

“Toby had an amazing season and bowled some fantastic spells. That was just one of many,” added Franklin.

“At the time, I didn’t realise it was a hat-trick. I was too caught up in a wonderful moment – the emotion of that leg stump going over, the overwhelming feeling of winning the Championship.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to play international cricket and IPL but that game – and that whole period – ranks right up there as a highlight of my career.”

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