County Championship: Toby Roland-Jones helps Middlesex take early control against Worcestershire

Toby Roland-Jones (right) played four Tests for England in 2017
LV= County Championship Division Two, New Road, Worcester (day one)
Worcestershire: 167-8: D’Oliveira 44; Roland-Jones 3-32, Murtagh 2-36, Higgins 2-45
Middlesex: Yet to bat
Worcestershire (0 pts) lead Middlesex (2pts) by 167 runs with two wickets remaining
Match scorecard

Toby Roland-Jones picked up three wickets to take his first-class tally to a personal best of 66 in a season as promotion-chasing Middlesex took control on day one of their County Championship match with Worcestershire at New Road.

The former England pace bowler exploited ideal conditions for seam bowling as he moved past his previous best haul of 64 victims in 2012.

He received excellent support from Middlesex captain Tim Murtagh and Ryan Higgins as Worcestershire were reduced to 167-8 on a day shortened to 68.5 overs by rain and bad light.

It enabled visitors to collect two of the maximum haul of 16 points needed to ensure promotion to Division One.

Worcestershire captain, Brett D’Oliveira dug in for three-and-a-quarter hours for a fighting 44.

Both teams and coaches formed a guard of honour before the start of play for umpire Nick Cook, officiating in his final game before retirement.

Murtagh won an important toss and put the home side in to bat on a greenish pitch used previously for the Championship match with Sussex in April.

The veteran seamer then struck with the first delivery of the game.

Ed Pollock had been Worcestershire’s match-winner against Middlesex earlier in the season with 113 off 77 balls at Merchant Taylor’s School, but he was instantly undone by a ball of extra bounce after pushing forward and edged through to wicketkeeper John Simpson.

Murtagh and Roland-Jones skilfully exploited the sideways movement and variable bounce and there was plenty of playing and missing from Jake Libby and new batter Jack Haynes.

Libby (four) was lbw to an inswinging ball of full length from Roland-Jones.

It was primarily a battle for survival and Azhar Ali had scrapped away for one run off 33 balls before rain led to an early lunch with Worcestershire 26 for two from 16 overs.

But Roland-Jones struck for the second time when Haynes (20) prodded at a delivery and found the hands of Sam Robson at second slip.

Azhar temporarily lifted the shackles with a cut and cover drive for boundaries after Ryan Higgins came into the attack.

But, after surviving for two-and-a-half hours, he was leg before for 27 to a delivery from the same player which nipped back in.

Ed Barnard, in his final appearance for Worcestershire before joining Warwickshire, immediately looked in good touch.

The all-rounder profited from the cut shot with boundaries off Higgins and Bamber and he and D’Oliveira steered Worcestershire to 113 for four by tea.

Two wickets in two overs after the interval tipped the balance in Middlesex’s favour.

Barnard (28) was pouched at first slip after driving at Roland-Jones and Gareth Roderick, who had scored centuries in his previous two knocks, fell for a duck, the victim of a sharp catch at short leg off Murtagh.

Matthew Waite struck some useful blows before he inside edged a Higgins delivery on to the stumps and D’Oliveira’s resistance was finally ended by Ethan Bamber, with Robson collecting another chance at second slip.

Report supplied by the ECB Reporters’ Network.

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