Hampshire face the prospect of an innings defeat after Tim Murtagh took four for 33 to spearhead a superb Middlesex bowling performance yesterday.
Tumbled out for 131 in reply to the hosts’ 467 for three declared, Dale Benkenstein’s side then slid to 62 for three when forced to follow on, with Murtagh immediately picking up another wicket and James Fuller taking two for 24.
Sean Ervine was Hampshire’s first innings’ top scorer with just 31 as Murtagh and Toby Roland-Jones, who flattened the tail to finish with four for 49, ran amok at Northwood on day two.
At stumps, Middlesex were in sight of wrapping up a first win of the season in division one of the Specsavers County Championship.
Hampshire’s second innings began with Murtagh removing Will Smith with the second ball of the opening over, and Fuller then had Michael Carberry well held at second slip for 21, before clean bowling Ervine for one.
It was hard to fathom, as the wickets tumbled, that earlier in the day Middlesex had declared their first innings on 467 after thumping a further 125 runs in just 80 minutes after resuming on 342 for three.
John Simpson rushed to 100 not out and Adam Voges ended up with an unbeaten 160.
Initially, Murtagh took three for 17 in 12 overs either side of lunch to fatally undermine Hampshire’s reply.
And both Fuller and Ollie Rayner chipped in with wickets before Murtagh returned to wrap up the innings in tandem with a no-nonsense approach from Roland-Jones.
Fuller picked up a first championship wicket for Middlesex when he had Liam Dawson brilliantly caught for 21 by Sam Robson.
And just before tea, off-spinner Rayner had 19-year-old Joe Weatherley caught off bat and pad for four on his championship debut, leaving Ervine and Adam Wheater to offer the only remaining resistance as the decline continued in the final session.
In seven overs’ batting before lunch, Hampshire lost Carberry for four to a catch at the wicket off Murtagh, and both the veteran seamer and his new ball partner, Roland-Jones, beat the bat regularly.
It was no surprise when both Smith and Adams fell to the metronomic Murtagh after the interval.
Smith, on 12, edged to third slip, while Adams was bowled for 19.
Roland-Jones had just been driven imperiously to the extra cover boundary by Wheater when the Hampshire keeper edged him behind on 22, and Murtagh ended Ervine’s resistance by finding another thin edge.
Tino Best hit his first ball to mid on and Roland-Jones was on a hat-trick when Mason Crane edged to first slip.
Last man James Tomlinson kept that ball out, but was powerless to do anything but fend a vicious lifter to third slip as Roland-Jones wrapped up the innings in merciless fashion.