In the end it was just too much for Lancashire. They made a great fist of it. Gary Keedy led the way with his third five-wicket haul to wrap up the Middlesex first innings and Carl Hooper completed a fine all-round display with four second-innings wickets.
But at the death Lancashire were beaten as much by the flat pitch as by dogged batting. The burning issue now will be what sort of a surface will they be presented with when they take on title rivals Surrey tomorrow?
They have already given up hope of having back Andrew Flintoff and fast bowler James Anderson. The England management will not be pronouncing on possible releases until today but Jack Simmons was in no doubt. "I don't think either of them will play," said the Lancashire chairman. "I find it very strange that a 20-year-old [Anderson] is not allowed to play in the championship. You do not get better by sitting on your backside."
But you do by being kept on your toes and both sides contributed to a tense day. Andrew Strauss underlined his enormous potential and patience with a half-century to go with his first innings hundred, and the support cast also showed a great deal of character.
In the morning Ben Hutton made enough runs to reach his fourth championship hundred of the season, but not enough to ensure that Middlesex avoided the follow-on. They fell 41 runs short.
On the way the match lost umpire Peter Hartley, who broke his right wrist when being struck by a full-blooded shot from Chad Keegan, the Lancashire cricket manager, Mike Watkinson, stepping up as a temporary replacement before the arrival of Mike Dixon. Watkinson thus enjoyed a closer view of Keedy, who showed little mercy but a lot of variation as he picked up his first five-wicket haul of the season at Old Trafford and his third of the summer.
So it was back to the grindstone for Middlesex, which they did with a sense of purpose, turning Lancashire hopes into dust as Strauss, Ed Joyce, David Nash, Paul Weekes and Sven Koenig, who had split a finger warming up and needed stitches, kept out the eager home bowlers.Reuse content