Chilton's sedate progress slows Middlesex attack

Lancashire 363-3 v Middlesex
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Lancashire's push for the title was supposed to begin here, but on something of a flat day, to match the flat pitch on which the action unfolded, there was a marked lack of atmosphere and urgency throughout the three sessions.

And that was despite Middlesex tearing through their allocation of overs like Olympic sprinters; even the loss of three overs to bad light late in the afternoon did not prevent them from sending down a total of 106 overs in the day, two more than the requisite total.

Lancashire did not suffer unduly. The runs still came frequently easily enough, it was just that, overall, the impression was of a slow day. Or rather, in the case of Mark Chilton, a steady day, where accretion of runs was the rule. Chilton had filled his boots with a sound century against the same opponents at Lord's at the start of May when he and Stuart Law shared a 264-run stand, a record for all wickets against Middlesex.

On that occasion Chilton was batting at five; this time he opened with Iain Sutcliffe, who had one scoring stroke in 21 balls before getting into position for a hook only to make a last-minute withdrawal and toe-end the ball tamely to gully. But Chilton was in the mood to torment Middlesex once more. He did not present a single chance on the way to three figures, his fifth century of the season and the ninth of his career.

He was helped by the inroads that Fate had made into the Middlesex attack. Ashley Noffke will not play again this season and, indeed, returned home to Australia on Wednesday with a back injury, so the ever-willing Joe Dawes will fill in for his fellow countryman. But not even the former Melbourne police officer could shift the obdurate Chilton or his second-wicket partner, Mal Loye, who also refused to present a chance as he moved inexorably to the 24th hundred of his first-class career.

So untroubled were the batsmen, so benign the pitch that it was something of a dull shock when Chilton departed, yorked by Abdul Razzaq, because he had spent five careful hours at the crease in constructing a career-best 125. He and Loye were within a whisker of beating that most recent record, but at least the 259 runs the pair had accumulated was a second-wicket record against Middlesex (the one with Law had been for the fourth wicket).

Chilton, 26, had shown the odd flash during his stay, such as the straight six he hit off James Dalrymple to take him past fifty, but generally it was unhurried progress by both men. Loye, who had reached his hundred seven overs before Chilton, although both reached the mark off 196 balls, fell in Razzaq's next over, strangled down the leg side.

The bad news for Middlesex was that the double departure left the visitors with the prospect of another long day today, because the pair at the crease are Lancashire's overseas duo, Law and Carl Hooper, who both looked in ominously good form in the gentle run to the close.