Bob Willis Trophy: Middlesex hit back after Jack Carson helps Sussex to first-innings lead at Radlett

Sussex's Jack Carson
Sussex's teenage spinner Jack Carson is playing only his third first-class match
Bob Willis Trophy, Radlett Cricket Club (day two):
Sussex 293& 33-4: Murtagh 3-16
Middlesex 203: Simpson 48; Carson 4-46, Claydon 3-23
Sussex (5 pts) lead Middlesex (4 pts) by 123 with 6 wickets remaining

A devastating late spell from seamer Tim Murtagh fired Middlesex back into contention in their Bob Willis Trophy clash against Sussex at Radlett.

Murtagh grabbed three wickets, including two in two balls, as Sussex crumbled to 4-4 in their second innings, eventually reaching 33-4 at stumps.

It left the visitors holding an overall advantage of 123 after bowling their hosts out for 203 earlier in the day, with teenage off-spinner Jack Carson returning career-best figures of 4-46.

Middlesex had slumped to 80-6 before John Simpson, debutant Blake Cullen and Miguel Cummins all rallied with the bat to keep their side within striking distance.

Ollie Robinson and Mitch Claydon soon had Middlesex on the back foot when the home side began their first innings, taking advantage of morning cloud cover.

Claydon bowled four consecutive maidens, while Robinson maintained his habit of taking Middlesex wickets when he trapped Sam Robson leg-before with the day's fifth ball before Max Holden and Nick Gubbins dug in to face a testing examination.

Holden scored just a solitary run from his first 36 balls and seemed to have done all the hard work when he fell to debutant Will Sheffield, caught at first slip and Middlesex were in deeper trouble when skipper Stevie Eskinazi was leg-before to Robinson in the next over.

Two further lbw decisions went in Sussex's favour before lunch - both accompanied by a whiff of controversy as Robbie White fell to a ball from Claydon that looked high and wide and Gubbins was given out to a Carson delivery which seemed to be drifting beyond leg stump.

Carson collected his second wicket after lunch, pinning Martin Andersson plumb lbw on the back foot after a breezy 17 - but Simpson and Cullen dug Middlesex out of a hole with a seventh-wicket stand of 70.

Simpson was eventually dismissed by Claydon, with a quicker delivery that nipped back from outside off stump, but Cullen and Cummins maintained the Middlesex recovery with a spirited partnership of 51, either side of an hour's delay following a downpour over tea.

Cullen batted with a maturity well beyond his 18 years, occupying the crease for almost two and a half hours for a solid 34, while Cummins counter-attacked with three boundaries in his 25 to secure a batting bonus point.

Middlesex's last three wickets tumbled in rapid succession, leaving Sussex to face an awkward period of 12 overs before the close - and Murtagh struck in the third of them, moving the ball back at Phil Salt to bowl him through the gate.

Murtagh then had Harry Finch plumb and Tom Clark taken at first slip for a first-ball duck before Cummins had Aaron Thomason lbw, also without scoring, in the next over. And the damage could have been even worse had Robson been able to hang on when Ben Brown offered a slip chance off Cummins.

Middlesex seamer Tim Murtagh:

"It's probably right in the balance. A 90-run deficit on any pitch is never great but it was nice to get that 12-over period at them. The aim was to get two wickets and put ourselves in a decent position but to get four was a bit of a bonus.

"These two are dangerous, Rawlins and Brown. They can score quickly so we'll be trying our best to knock them over as soon as we can.

"It took some good partnerships from our guys to get us up to 200 - at one point it didn't look like we'd even get there, so it was impressive from Blake Cullen, especially on his debut, to show a cool head in the middle of a crisis. He didn't look flustered at all."

Sussex spinner Jack Carson:

"The seamers set the tone really well - Ollie Robinson came out and did what he does and Mitch Claydon as well was brilliant. That makes it so much easier for the spinner to come on when there's pressure already built.

"A lot of it's come from working with Ian Salisbury - he's been brilliant. I've been working with him since last summer and I've tried to learn as much as I can.

"He's said 'you're in the game to take wickets as spinners' and it's about what fields you set and making sure those fields match your plans - he's made that really clear."

Match report supplied by PA Media.

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