A remarkable, topsy-turvy day ended prematurely at Old Trafford with Lancashire’s sixth wicket pair battling to save the follow-on after a sensational opening spell from Toby Roland-Jones had left them 6-4.
In the morning session, Lancashire had taken the last seven Middlesex wickets for 69 to limit the visitors to 327 and, vitally in a tight title race, just three batting points. But Roland-Jones took four wickets in 29 balls, and Tim Murtagh took one to wrestle control back to the Division One leaders.
The pair started with three maidens, then Roland-Jones got one to lift and nip away from Haseeb Hameed, who could only edge to second slip. Luke Procter then drove hard at Murtagh but edged straight to gully, before Roland-Jones struck twice in an over, with Alviro Petersen well caught by John Simpson down the legside and Steven Croft bowled by a full ball.
Jos Buttler, playing his first Championship match since September 2014, came out and looked to counterattack, twice cover-driving beautifully, but soon fell in the same fashion as Petersen, with a leg glance, caught by Simpson, diving one-handed to his left.
From 32-5, Rob Jones and Liam Livingstone looked to rebuild. Jones was cautious, defending plenty, while Livingstone looked to counter-attack, punching Steven Finn down the ground for four. When bad light brought an early tea at 2.50pm, they had shared 25.
By 4.30pm, when the players left the field due to rain (they did not return), that stand had swelled to 70. Jones had grown into his innings, driving beautifully to reach the highest score of his three-match first-class career, while Livingstone had carted Ollie Rayner for four wide of long-on. Livingstone survived an lbw appeal from Murtagh on 26, but otherwise it was an assured stand, stymying more impressive Middlesex bowling.
Having started the day well set on 258-3, Middlesex had been bowled out for 327 by lunch.
After Dawid Malan completed an 109-ball half-century, Middlesex contrived to lose 3-10 runs in 39 balls. Malan became the fourth member of Middlesex’s top four to reach 50 but not kick on, as he tried to play Tom Bailey too late and chopped on, while Stevie Eskinazi was bowled through the gate by Kyle Jarvis. Simpson was caught at second slip, throwing his hands at a drive off Bailey.
The captain James Franklin was the not out batsman, guiding Middlesex to their third batting point with three balls to spare thanks to a four wide of long-on off Kerrigan, but the left-arm spinner dismissed both Rayner and Roland-Jones. Rayner prodded forward and was caught at slip, while Roland-Jones was bowled playing back.
In the final over before the scheduled break, Croft had Murtagh caught brilliantly at short leg by Rob Jones, diving to his left. The extra 15 minutes were taken and last man Finn was bowled by Kerrigan, who finished with figures of 4-80.