sport

Northants settle for draw

Eoin Morgan's 81 not out from 95 balls was the only highlight for a sparse last-day crowd at Lord's as Middlesex had to be content with a draw in their County Championship Division One match against bottom-of-the-table Northamptonshire.

Set 304 to win in a minimum of 56 overs, after Middlesex's second-innings declaration half an hour after lunch on 199 for five, Northants made no attempt to go for the runs and instead batted out time on 82 for three.

The visitors, who take 10 points from the game, will be happy simply to avoid defeat for only the second time in nine championship matches this season. Middlesex earned 12 points, but will be frustrated as they needed victory to close a significant gap between themselves in mid-table and the division's pace-setters.

Morgan came to the crease in the third over of the day, when Nick Gubbins fended to short leg on 15 against the pacy Steven Crook, and helped an aggressive Dawid Malan to add 68 in 14.4 overs for the third wicket before unleashing an array of strokes.

Malan fell for 37, slashing Muhammad Azharullah to slip, while Neil Dexter and Joe Denly also perished in the search for quick runs.

Dexter, on 16, edged a drive at Crook to second slip and Denly, after pulling James Middlebrook's off spin for six, was caught at long-on for 12 trying for a repeat against Maurice Chambers.

Morgan, who drove one extraordinary six over long-off when he seemed to be in no position against Middlebrook to play such a stroke, went to his 50 from 63 balls and, with Joe Simpson, kept up the forward momentum after lunch as 48 runs came in seven overs.

Perhaps Middlesex could have declared a little earlier, but it was soon clear that the pitch conditions were still excellent for batting and that taking 10 Northants wickets in the time remaining - or nine if broken finger victim Rob Keogh did not bat - would be a tall order.

Stephen Peters and James Kettleborough did fall to the new ball, leaving Northants 29 for two, with Peters clipping Steven Finn to a short square-leg on 11 and Kettleborough losing his off stump as he shouldered arms to one from Tim Murtagh that nipped back down the Lord's slope.

But there were few further alarms, despite Middlebrook's 26-over 22 ending with an edge to Morgan at first slip off Toby Roland-Jones. Matt Spriegel resisted for 104 balls to end on 29 not out and when hands were shaken, with 10 overs unbowled, Rob Newton was unbeaten on nine from 65 balls.

Middlesex captain Chris Rogers expressed his disappointment at having failed to get full points, given the opposition.

"It's a tough one to swallow, not beating the bottom club," he said.

"No disrespect to Northants, but in our position we would expect to beat them. I think we were one wicket away, actually, and if we'd split the Steven Crook-Andrew Hall partnership early in their first innings I think it would have been very different.

"Crook played the innings of his life to score 131, but they are allowed to play well and credit to them.

"I don't think we bowled or fielded as well as we can in this match, and we are not maintaining pressure enough with the ball.

"The pitch was still a featherbed today, with nothing in it for our spinner, and it was a tough one. I don't think declaring a bit earlier would have made any difference, though."

Northamptonshire skipper Stephen Peters was pleased his side managed to halt their losing run.

He said: "We have had a dreadful losing streak with seven defeats in a row, so it was important for us to stem the tide.

"We are happy enough to come away with the draw, and we played some better cricket in this match and, obv iously, the stand of 144 between Steven Crook and Andrew Hall went a long way to earning us the draw points.

"I thought Middlesex might have wanted an extra 10 overs or so at us today, but the chase they offered us was never really on."