County Championship: Middlesex title charge held up by Rob Jones century

By Stephan ShemiltBBC Sport at Old Trafford
Rob Jones
Lancashire opener Rob Jones enjoyed an exuberant celebration after reaching his maiden first-class century
Specsavers County Championship Division One, Emirates Old Trafford, day three
Middlesex 327 & 72-4: Kerrigan 3-16
Lancashire 259: Jones 106*, Livingstone 53, Bailey 53; Roland-Jones 4-54, Finn 4-71
Lancashire (4 pts) trail Middlesex (6 pts) by 140 runs

Lancashire staged a spirited fightback to leave their match with Championship leaders Middlesex delicately poised after three days at Old Trafford.

Rob Jones, in his third-first class match, became the youngest Lancashire batsman since Cyril Washbrook in 1935 to carry his bat for 106 not out.

Liam Livingstone and Tom Bailey each made 53 as the hosts, who were 6-4 and 32-5, reached 259.

Simon Kerrigan then took 3-16 to reduce Middlesex to 72-4, a lead of 140.

While they remain in a strong position, the victory that would have left Middlesex needing only four more points to secure the title now looks less likely.

Still, after third-placed Somerset's win at Yorkshire, Middlesex will definitely be top of the table going into the final round of matches, when second-placed Yorkshire visit Lord's.

That they are not closer to securing a win at Old Trafford is down mainly to right-hander Jones, a 20-year-old who was playing minor counties cricket for Cheshire earlier this season.

After watching the top-order collapse on Tuesday, he spent almost seven hours at the crease, patiently showing stout defence.

He did, however, loft spinner Ollie Rayner for six to reach three figures, with a prolonged and emotional celebration following.

Jones received support in stands of 106 with Livingstone and 92 with Bailey, who edged Steven Finn to slip to become the first of two wickets in two balls that signalled the beginning of the end for Lancashire.

The visitors led by 68, but were prevented from pushing on in the evening session by left-arm spinner Kerrigan.

After Kyle Jarvis had Nick Gubbins caught at slip, Kerrigan, finding turn from the Pavilion End, trapped Sam Robson, Nick Compton and Stevie Eskinazi lbw.

Lancashire batsman Rob Jones told BBC Radio Lancashire:

"Words can't describe it. I can't believe it. I love playing for Lancashire, I really do. It's a boyhood dream. I'll savour this, because it's pretty special. The moment meant so much.

"We spoke about trying to bat the whole day and grind it down. It was attritional but we got the job done.

"It was a tough ask to rebuild from 6-4 but I just stayed in my bubble. It didn't matter how many balls I faced. I just had to soak up the pressure."

Middlesex bowler Steven Finn told BBC Radio London:

"We are doing it the hard way at the moment. We have played some good cricket in a track that has been docile. If you can build pressure, like Lancs did there, you will take wickets in clusters.

"We pride ourselves on being unbeaten, and it's important we get into a position where we pick up as many points as possible.

"There will be constant communication to those in the middle about whether we feel there is a game on for us and we should accelerate, or if we should make the game safe first then have a dip. It's a huge first hour. If we can get through unscathed, that would be massive."

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