The Indianpost

Rob Newton in the runs as rain hits

No doubt the poor weather forecast was a factor – and it was justified to the extent that only 40 overs were possible – but, considering this is a top-of-the-table match in which Northants could effectively seal promotion, the apparent lack of interest from the Northamptonshirepublic was startling.

At a time when County Championship attendances are rising only a couple of hundred turned out to see Middlesex, having put their opponents in, let slip an opportunity to put them firmly on the back foot.

The catching, with the exception of one hugely difficult chance when Ollie Rayner got a hand to but could not hold a David Sales edge high above his head at second slip, was immaculate. Unfortunately for the visitors, however, two were held off no-balls and one of them has already proved expensive.

The first was a sensational effort from Rayner to ‘catch’ Kyle Coetzer at second slip off Toby Roland-Jones. The second saw Rob Newton sky an attempted pull that was held by Chris Rogers, again off Roland-Jones.

Newton, who went to his half-century by cutting the first ball after tea, bowled by Rayner, to the cover-point boundary, duly closed on 66 not out.

Things had begun well enough for Middlesex when Tim Murtagh had Stephen Peters caught behind off a delivery that lifted sharply, the bowler’s 64th championship wicket this season.

Coetzer, on loan from Durham until the end of the season, fought hard but after his good fortune with the no-ball his luck turned when he was given out caught off a Steven Crook delivery that was adjudged to have taken a thin edge before thudding into his body and looping gently to second slip.

Alex Wakely never really settled before a loose back-foot drive at Crook sent the ball straight into the hands of Rogers at extra cover and, at 84 for three, Rogers’ decision to put Northants in looked justified.

Newton continued to bat solidly, however, and Sales, too, was beginning to look comfortable when play was finally abandoned.

Middlesex, who went into this game trailing Northants by 22 points, have a game in hand on both them and Gloucestershire, another 22 points adrift in third.

Their promotion bid is likely to be strengthened by the return of the England captain, Andrew Strauss, for their final three games, two of which are against the bottom county, Leicestershire.

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