Gregory blitz sees Somerset past Middlesex
- Credit: PA
Lewis Gregory’s swift unbeaten half-century landed the decisive blow as Somerset sealed a four-wicket victory over Middlesex in their LV= County Championship opener at Lord’s.
Gregory pummelled the home bowlers just after lunch, hitting 62 not out from 72 balls to tilt a see-saw encounter back in Somerset’s favour after Ethan Bamber’s double strike had raised Middlesex hopes.
But an unbroken seventh-wicket stand of 98 between the England international all-rounder and George Bartlett, who finished on 76 not out, saw the visitors home without further alarm.
The win enabled Somerset, runners-up in three of the last four County Championship campaigns, to immediately wipe out the eight-point penalty imposed for breaches of pitch regulations and carried over from 2019.
Resuming on 112 for three, Somerset adopted a patient approach during the first hour and offered no chances as Bartlett settled into the groove alongside captain Tom Abell, who led the way with a measured knock of 84.
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Bartlett batted confidently, capitalising on the absence of third man to keep the scoreboard ticking over, although there was a close call when his thick edge flew just wide of the diving Max Holden at gully.
But Bamber’s switch to the Nursery End paid dividends as he ended Abell’s three-hour vigil with a thin edge behind, and then dismissed Steven Davies for a duck, moving the ball back down the slope to trap the left-hander leg before.
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Craig Overton got off the mark by cracking Bamber through the covers for four, but Tim Murtagh’s outswinger removed him on the stroke of lunch, with Somerset still 98 short of their target.
However, Gregory immediately regained the initiative for the visitors after the interval, rapidly eating into the deficit as he dispatched Murtagh to the boundary three times in quick succession.
Bartlett brought up his half-century – passing 50 at first-class level for the eighth time – by driving Tom Helm off the back foot for four and Gregory soon followed suit from only 55 deliveries.
Middlesex kept rotating their seamers in a bid to stem the flow of runs, but the damage had already been done and Gregory applied the finishing touch, carving Bamber for four to level the scores before adding a single off the next ball.
Somerset captain Abell said: “The first two days we didn’t perform at all well and we were way behind the eight ball. It was always going to be tricky chasing just shy of 300 in the last innings, but we were only thinking positively.
“The belief in the side is huge and we never lost faith in the dressing room. We just felt that, if we could establish those partnerships, we had what it took to chase it down.
“I’m so pleased for George (Bartlett) – what an innings that was to see us home and the way Lewis (Gregory) played at the end was magnificent. That does a huge amount for us as a side, having come from so far behind in the game.”
Middlesex skipper Eskinazi added: “We’re bitterly disappointed to be in the driver’s seat for most of two-and-a-half days and come out on the wrong side of it. At six down, we take one or two quick wickets and we ice the game, but we weren’t able to do that.
“It doesn’t really matter how well you play across the four days unless you come out on the winning side. We’re going to have to learn and learn quickly going into next week (against Hampshire).
“There were positives to take and we’re really proud of Ethan (Bamber), he’s a phenomenal young man and a very skilful bowler with a huge heart and these conditions suited him down to the ground. You love seeing good people do well and he’s certainly one of those.”