Northamptonshire had a disappointing end to their Specsavers County Championship match against Middlesex at the County Ground.
Despite dominating the first two-and-a-half days of the match the hosts could not chase down the 216 runs they needed to overcome Middlesex’s second innings score, Tim Murtagh taking his second five-wicket haul of the season to bowl his team to the win.
Murtagh and Ethan Bamber shared eight wickets as Northamptonshire were bowled out for 187 to lose by 31 runs.
Northamptonshire took just three balls of the morning to bowl Middlesex out for 374 – a remarkable fightback having been 166-6 on the third afternoon – and set about their target comfortably, reaching 94 for the loss of Saif Zaib just before lunch. But Luke Procter, who had gone calmly to 35 in a stand of 75 for the second wicket with Ricardo Vasconcelos, drove lazily at Bamber to edge behind and it began an incredible slide.
After lunch, Vasconcelos, having passed 50 for the second time in the match in 73 balls with six fours, tried to force Murtagh off the back foot and edged to second slip. Alex Wakely was then LBW for six offering no stroke. Steven Crook never looked comfortable and it was no surprise when he too was LBW for five, also to Murtagh, before Rory Kleinveldt played all around a Bamber delivery and was also given out leg before.
It was a collapse of 6-36 in 14.3 overs and saw Middlesex suddenly favourites to pull off an amazing comeback. Richard Levi made 18 to offer Northants some hope before he was strangled down the leg side trying to flick James Fuller.
Nathan Buck and Brett Hutton at least steered Northants through to tea and as they resumed needing 43 to win with two wickets remaining, the home side were still alive. But Buck drove at Murtagh and popped a catch up to extra-cover and Hutton was trapped LBW by one that slid back in from Murtagh to end the game and complete figures of 5-38.
For Northamptonshire it was a disappointingdefeat – their sixth of the season – having had the game in the palm of their hands, something acknowledged by Head Coach David Ripley.
“We’ve played some pretty good cricket over four days and guttingly lost,” he said.
“We had seen off the new ball but we gifted some wickets away and the belief then builds for Middlesex, the pressure built on us and it became very edgy. There were no demons in the pitch, batting was at it’s easiest today and we’ve really got to win that.
“There’s a way of winning games and finding a way over the line, we were doing it last season but lost it this year.