Middlesex v Northants: Malan's century strengthens hosts' grip
|LV= County Championship Division One, Lord's|
|Close, day two: Middlesex 488-9 dec, Northants 89-3|
|Middlesex 5pts, Northants 1pt|
Dawid Malan's first Championship century since August 2012 strengthened Middlesex's position over Northants on the second day at Lord's.
Malan (154 not out) was two short of equalling his career-best first-class score when Middlesex declared on 488-9, with John Simpson making a useful 67.
Northants lost James Middlebrook for a duck in reply and slipped to 39-2.
But James Kettleborough, on his Championship debut, made 42 not out as Northants closed 399 behind on 89-3.
Malan resumed on unbeaten on 72 as the home side began day two on 280-3, but they lost Neil Dexter (20) in the second over to Muhammad Azharullah (2-82).
Joe Denly could only make 17 before becoming Steven Crook's (2-94) second victim, but Malan remained defiant.
He reached his first Championship ton since Middlesex's draw with Warwickshire nearly two years ago by hitting Andrew Hall for four.
Simpson and Malan put on 128 for the sixth wicket to bat the hosts into a strong position.
Middlebrook was caught behind by Simpson off Tim Murtagh for a seven-ball duck as the visitors' reply got off to a stuttering start.
Stephen Peters made 18 and Matt Spriegel just nine as Northants were 68-3 in the 19th over, but 21-year-old Kettleborough playing in only his second first-class match, steadied things before rain forced an early finish.
BBC London 94.9's Kevin Hand:
"After another strong day, Middlesex should win this match, weather permitting, to keep pace with the pack of teams challenging for the Division One title.
"The morning was slow as Dawid Malan added only 24 runs to his overnight 74 following the two quick wickets claimed by the new ball, with the Northants bowlers showing far greater control, and with it, more threat, but he opened up after lunch to record his highest Championship score.
"Steven Crook bowled some ferocious spells, including roughing up both Malan and Simpson, and the home bowlers were too strong for the Northants top order, which could have collapsed in a heap but for an impressive knock from former Middlesex academy player James Kettleborough on Championship debut."