Going in to the final day the home side were firm favourites on a turning pitch against an inexperienced batting lineup. The day began in perfect fashion as Kartik picked up the key wicket of Robson with his sixth delivery. There was a feeling that Middlesex might be fortunate to make the lunch break as the third wicket went down soon after, Batty collecting his second scalp, Tom Smith edging to Kartik at leg slip.
Denly and Malan then steadied the ship for Middlesex with a 43 run partnership. Malan looking the much more comfortable of the two as he was positive from the off. Denly's wicket, leg before to give Batty his third wicket, brought another as Dexter fell, also to Batty. When Balbirnie and Malan fell within six overs of that it looked as though the game was up for Middlesex at 101-7 with 153 runs still required.
It wasn't over though, not by a long shot. Steven Crook came to the crease and was instantly positive, advancing down the track to crack Batty for two fours. He and the debutant Rossington compiled a superb 96 run partnership at a good pace and the captain began to look very short of ideas. He belatedly made a change, bringing Dernbach into the attack and the pace bowler delivered, bowling Crook with a slower ball in his second over of the day. It was a massive relief for Batty.
When Rossington was caught at slip by Roy off just two balls later it looked as though the game was up...again. But it wasn't...again. Roland-Jones and Murtagh, who forged a good 44 run partnership in the first innings steadily brought the total within reach. Batty persisted with spin almost throughout the entire day, save for seven overs from Dernbach it was slow bowling all the way. Some of the fields Batty set were overly defensive in the circumstances and he seemed to be dead set against mixing up the bowling.
When the target dipped below 20 runs Kartik bowled a no ball and the game seemed to be heading in Middlesex's direction. With the partnership edging towards fifty and the set batsmen sensibly turning the strike over I had all but given up. However Batty, with one last push, managed to crowbar and LBW decision out of umpire Nigel Cowley to win the match. His celebration, down on his knees mid-pitch, said it all.
This was an absolutely vital win as one of only two fixtures that remained at the Oval. It takes us 18 points clear of Lancashire on the same number of games and 21 clear of Worcestershire who have a game in hand. It was not a vintage performance but there are plenty of positives - Burns and Harinath making maiden Championship tons, some runs for Davies and wickets for Kartik are all good signs, and it is crucial that we continue on an upward curve for the final three games.
We know that one win can spark a revival in fortunes and I hope that is the case with this result. The players worked extremely hard over the course of four days and deserve the plaudits. Well played.