SKIPPER FRANKLIN DEFENDS DERBY STRATEGY
CHAMPS’ SKIPPER DEFENDS DERBY STRATEGY
JAMES FRANKLIN denied any lack of positive intent after Middlesex’s London derby with Surrey petered out into a draw at Lord’s on Monday.
Eyebrows were raised when, having dismissed dangerman Kumar Sangakkara early on the final morning of the Specsavers County Championship first division clash, after his second century of the match. But the Seaxes’ skipper declined use of the new ball for 14 overs, pinning his hopes on spin at one end through Ollie Rayner and reverse-swing courtesy of Steven Finn at the other.
The gamble failed as Ben Foakes and Sam Curran added 83 for the sixth wicket before the latter fell to the last ball before lunch – and by the time Middlesex mopped up the tail it was almost tea.
The draw means the reigning champions are still without a win so far in their title defence.
Nevertheless, the former New Zealand international seemed comfortable with his judgement call.
“Adam Voges and I discussed the merits of taking the new ball and both concluded at the time the ball was still reversing,” he said
“We felt Ollie was doing a good job, plus Finny was a threat with the reversing ball and at the same time the scoreboard wasn’t really going anywhere for Surrey, who were stagnating a bit, so we felt if we could draw that out a little bit for another eight or 10 overs it would give Toby Roland-Jones and Tom Helm a period before lunch of maybe 45 minutes to really attack. So that is why we progressed longer with the reversing ball longer than people thought we would.”
Despite Surrey’s stoic resistance, Middlesex were left 242 in 39 overs to claim a victory which would have carried them to third in the early season table.
Their approach though was unambitious, Nick Compton being sent out to open with Nick Gubbins as the chase was never really entertained.
Such caution surprised some given the tenants of Lord’s willingness to successfully pursue 300plus at a similar required rate at Taunton amid their surge to title glory last year.
According to Franklin, the two scenarios were very different and don’t bear comparison.
“It was different circumstances to Somerset last year,” he added. “Fourth-day wickets here don’t compare to a fourth-day wicket at Taunton.
“When there is a lot of grass on the wicket at Taunton it is pretty flat and pretty good to bat day four, whereas here it is a little bit slow and can be tricky at times to score.
“We gave it a bit of discussion, but it was a bit of a tricky situation. We were about a minute off from it being tea and not losing any overs, but to go out there and bat for six overs was a bit of a tricky period.
“We thought if we got a good start through the first 20 overs we might look at it but we never really got any sort of momentum.”
Middlesex now have a week off to harness their energy before entertaining Somerset at Lord’s from Friday June 2.
Worth celebrating? Steven Finn and James Franklin (right)