sport

Middlesex build decent lead

Nick Gubbins scored his third half-century in four championship innings as Middlesex forged a lead of 243 over Somerset at Uxbridge to encourage hopes that these two title-chasing teams might set up an exciting finish on the final day.

With a draw of only limited value at this stage of the season, Somerset captain Marcus Trescothick showed positive intent by declaring his side's first innings at nine down - immediately after Nick Compton's dismissal for 94 and with the visitors still 74 runs behind.

The impressive Gubbins, a 20-year-old opener playing only his second championship match, then underpinned Middlesex's response. He lifted Lewis Gregory over the fence at long leg and also hit nine fours in an unbeaten 67. With rain forecast for Thursday afternoon, his enterprise may count for little, but at 169 for two, the hosts could yet decide to set a target.

Somerset, having resumed on 153 for four this morning, made reasonably comfortable progress for the best part of an hour. But all that changed once Alex Barrow was needlessly run out for 36 to end a stand of 84 with Compton.

Having worked Steven Finn past square leg, Barrow turned confidently for a second and was some way down the pitch when he was sent back. Even though the return went over the wicketkeeper's head, Gubbins - fielding at point - had time to collect and return the ball to Finn before Barrow could regain his ground.

That was the breakthrough Middlesex wanted - and they finished the morning well on top thanks to three wickets in the space of seven overs late in the session. Peter Trego, driving expansively at Neil Dexter, holed out to deep cover, Craig Overton had his off stump knocked back by Toby Roland Jones and then the same bowler - having just been thrown the new ball - persuaded Lewis Gregory to poke a simple catch to cover.

At 233 for eight, Middlesex must have hoped to wrap up the visitors' first innings in quick time. In fact, with Alfonso Thomas adding to his reputation as county cricket's most talented No. 10, they were kept in the field for another 18 overs and could only start to think about batting again when Somerset declared nine down immediately after Compton's dismissal.

Having scored an unbeaten century against Durham back in April, Compton has now come tantalisingly close to three figures on three occasions - only to be denied each time. He made 92 against Warwickshire , 91 against Lancashire and now this.

Here, the 36 runs he added to his overnight 58 took 118 balls - a rate of knots not helped by that clatter of wickets - before a top-edged hook against Steven Finn presented long leg with a straightforward catch.

Chris Rogers' second single-figure failure of the match, out for just two, did not give Middlesex the best of starts as they about extending a lead of 74. But Gubbins and Dawid Malan soon had the scoreboard ticking over nicely, adding 106 in 24 overs.

Malan, scorer of a century in the first innings, perished for 48 when trying to get after Overton. Gubbins continued to impress, however, and was well assisted by Eoin Morgan, who showed his intent by drilling George Dockrell for six over long off.