“It’s all just a case of history repeating” sung Propellerheads with a bit of help from Shirley Bassey in 1997. Not all of her apparently, just those bits from the ankles downwards it seems, unless I’ve misunderstood what “Feat. Shirley Bassey” means.
Wind forward twenty-six years and history repeating seems to all too readily summarise Middlesex’s batting this season. Their top order could clearly do with their feat moving more positively.
Some is good, some is bad/And the joke rather sad/That it’s all just a little bit of history repeating. Just one batting bonus point from the thirty available in six games so far, including the one in progress against Somerset really is the type of history they have to change if this season is not to fall very much into the bad category. If they don’t, the brief green shoots of back-to-back victories over Nottinghamshire and Kent may just have flattered to deceive. It is, of course, by no means a coincidence that the first of those wins was also where the only batting point accrued, even if the game ultimately came down to a high-octane chase of the Notts declaration target.
On Day 2 at Lords, there was another piece of more recent history repeated and again it was from the victory against Notts. There, Toby Roland Jones had flung out a hand but couldn’t cling on to a caught and bowled chance off Ben Duckett. He did, however deflect the ball enough to run out Ben Slater as he followed up. Fortune for Middlesex, even if Duckett would have been the preferred wicket at the time. Against Somerset, fortune was definitely against Middlesex. The perennial Peter Siddle was the Somerset bowler flinging out an arm towards a meaty John Simpson drive, inadvertently deflecting the ball onto the stumps of the backing up Tim Murtagh. It was the last Middlesex wicket to fall though in a sorry first innings effort of 175. Even the most enthusiastic Middlesex fan would find it hard to argue that many additional runs could have been added had Murtagh survived, but then again, you just never know.
Somerset do have a very decent all international bowling attack with England’s Craig Overton, Lewis Gregory and Jack Leach, Australia’s Siddle and very much the star of this show, Black Cap’s Matt Henry who seems to rather enjoy the Home of Cricket. In his only Test here was eight years ago, his six wickets included Joe Root twice and Sir Alastair Cook. Against Middlesex, having smashed a very lively 40 to push Somerset past four hundred, he then ripped through the home side’s top order, including a first baller edged by Eskinasi to keeper Davies. His 5 for 45 was just reward for consistent accuracy and bounce. He was ably abetted too, by Lewis Gregory with 2 wickets and by way of an Ashes warm up, Jack Leach grabbed a couple as well. Both Luke Holman and Ryan Higgins will have to reflect though that the reverse sweep straight into the hands of leg slip and the missed sweep looking to despatch a dipping full toss over the Grandstand were not their finest batting moments.
For Middlesex, avoiding the follow on never really looked likely and only Simpson who was left not out on 57 and a belligerent Roland Jones with 39 offered genuine resistance in a disappointing total of 175. Scenting blood and perhaps an early bus back to Taunton, the follow on was duly enforced by Tom Abell.
With plenty of time left in the day and previous history to look at, Middlesex fans may well have feared the worst, but by the close they had reached 81 for1, having lost just Sam Robson who edged Gregory behind. Mark Stoneman, resolute but also keen to carry the game back to Somerset was 45 not out. Eskinasi, starting on the dreaded pair, never looked comfortable for his 16 not out, but was commendably gutsy looking to bat his way out of a very lean spell.
Whilst there was plenty of doom mongering to be heard amongst Middlesex fans, the fact is they closed Day 2 148 runs behind, but with 9 wickets in hand. Matching Somerset’s first innings total on a Lords pitch that has a tendency to flatten would at least offer some hope for their bowlers. To do that, however, recent history must not be allowed to repeat.