On the opening day of the final set of Division One County Championship fixtures, Middlesex made a strong start against Yorkshire, while Somerset collapsed from a position of strength against Nottinghamshire to leave the three-horse title race in a tantilating position.
Gubbins and Brooks star in Lord's title showdown
At Lord’s, Nick Gubbins was the star of the opening day, scoring an unbeaten century as Middlesex reached 208-5 from 82 overs before bad light stopped play in the capital. Gubbins was fortunate at certain times during his innings, but found the boundary on a number of occasions to keep the Yorkshire attack at bay.
Middlesex are in the strongest position to claim the title going into the final fixture, and will be happy with their day on the whole especially after a poor start. There were a steady run of wickets throughout the day, with Jack Brooks claiming the early scalps of Sam Robson for a duck, and Nick Compton for eight as Middlesex fell to 33-2 after the first hour.
Dawid Malan then played-on for 22 off the bowling of David Willey, with Stevie Eskinazi falling in similar fashion off Brooks. John Simpson then steadied the ship alongside Gubbins, sharing in a 57-run partnership before Tim Bresnan accounted for his wicket.
That was the final wicket of the day though, and left-handed pair of Gubbins and James Franklin (21*) took the home side to the close. Opener Gubbins brought his century up with a pulled six off of Ryan Sidebottom, eventually finishing the day 120 not out from 242 deliveries.
Ball rips heart out of Somerset middle-order following Rogers & Hildreth tons
At Taunton, Somerset collapsed from 302-2 to 322-9 at the close of their must-win game against Nottinghamshire.
In need of a win, alongside bonus points, big centuries from James Hildreth (135) and Chris Rogers (132) had put them in position to push for 400, before they crumbled in the final half-hour to relinquish their position of strength.
Jake Ball claimed six wickets for the already-relegated Notts side, with Imran Tahir chipping in with two as the visitors wrestled back a modicum of control in a vitally important fixture for the home side.
Hampshire make strong start in race for survival
At the other end of the table, Lancashire enjoyed the best of the day against Warwickshire at Edgbaston, with both sides still in danger of facing relegation.
The home side were dismissed for just 219 from 84.4 overs, with Sam Hain the only man to pass fifty, making 52 from 116 deliveries. Tom Bailey claimed four wickets for Lancashire, with Jordan Clark chipping in with three of his own, before the Red Rose ended the day 14-0 in their reply.
The team in most danger of dropping to Division Two alongside Nottinghamshire are eighth-placed Hampshire, and in desperate need of a win, they made 370-6 on a magnificent opening day for them at the Rose Bowl against Durham.
They ended the day just 30 runs short of maximum batting points thanks to scores of 90 from Will Smith and 92 from James Vince, with Jimmy Adams (53) and Sean Ervine (50) also making half-centuries.
Liam Dawson returns tomorrow morning unbeaten on 47, with the chance to make hay against a Durham side who assured their place in the top division last week.