Middlesex for the title? Comfortable win over Sussex suggests they are in the mix

16:48 02 June 2012

Steve Finn was in top form for Middlesex and looks set to play for England in the third Test against the West Indies

Steve Finn was in top form for Middlesex and looks set to play for England in the third Test against the West Indies

Archant

County Championship Divisione One: Day four, Middlesex 19-0 & 491 beat Sussex 283 and 225 by 10 wickets

Plenty doubted whether Middlesex would be able to retain their top flight status after promotion from Division Two of the County Championship last season, but after picking up yet another comfortable victory, safety is all but assured for next season.

With wins few and far between in what has been a campaign wrecked by weather the Londoners third win of the season, will mean they will be looking up rather than down for the rest of the season.

Middlesex dominated all four days against Sussex, out-bowling, batting and fielding their opponents in a one-sided encounter.

Starting the day 34-1 the hosts took wickets at regular intervals, with Steve Finn (3-66) and Gareth Berg (3-53) the main protagonists.

The visitors barely put up a fight with Wicketkeeper Ben Brown (53) and bowler Naved Arif (17) the only pair to put up any form of resilience.

Successive fours from Chris Nash off Finn early in the day would have brought optimisim to the visiting ranks, but a yorker from the England paceman beat the opener for speed, with his inside edge clattering onto the stumps.

The horribly out of nick Murray Goodwin failed to last as he edged off the same bowler to Ollie Rayner at slip.

Joe Gatting had played sensibly all morning but showed sparks of class with boundaries off a cover and drive and a well-timed on-drive off Finn.

However he was Berg’s first victim of the day as he caught plumb lbw as one nipped back in what was the South African’s opening over.

Sussex will be fume about the manner of the next two dismissals as first Luke Wright needlessly drove at a Berg deliver which he edged to a diving Finn at gully before Yardy picked out Eoin Morgan at deep square leg with a Toby Roland-Jones half tracker.

Six straight maidens, three either side of lunch kept the visitors in check at 102-6 as Brown and Arif dug in like those before them perhaps should have.

The wicketkeeper was dropped in the 41st over by Morgan off Finn with what was a relatively simple chance, but that aside, sensible batting from the duo saw them keep their side in the match.

Brown upped the pace, hitting loose deliveries to the boundary and brought up the 50 partnership in the 53rd over with a shot through the covers.

Finally four overs later their 63-run partnership was ended as Arif tried to drive Berg off a length with the edge caught brilliantly by Malan at slip.

Brown went past 50 with a cover drive off Rayner but the next ball was walking back to the pavilion after an attempted reverse sweep looped straight into the hands of Berg at first slip.

Lust blows from Steve Magoffin, including a six off Dawid Malan forced Middlesex to bat again.

The hosts had little trouble knocking off the 18 required for victory to earn a win and possibly a shot at the title.

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