Ethan Bamber spearheads Middlesex against Kent on shortened opening day

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Ethan Bamber spearheaded a potent Middlesex bowling performance with three wickets as they reduced Kent to 113 for six on a rain-affected opening day in the LV= Insurance County Championship. Seamer Bamber, who caught the eye with a six-wicket match haul in last week's win against Nottinghamshire, impressed again with figures of three for 26 to give the home side an early advantage at Lord's. He was backed up by player-coach Tim Murtagh, who collected the scalps of England opener Zak Crawley and Sam Billings, while Tom Helm was unlucky to remain wicketless after a fiery spell of bowling. Ben Compton was the only Kent player to enjoy any degree of success, batting through for a patient undefeated 38 when bad light and rain curtailed play midway through the afternoon session. With captain Toby Roland-Jones rested, Stephen Eskinazi took over the reins for Middlesex, fulfilling his first duty by winning the toss and inserting the opposition - which has been their preferred tactic so far this summer.

However, this was the first time the Seaxes' decision to bowl first had paid immediate dividends as they reduced Kent to 48 for four, with consistent spells by both Bamber and Helm. The latter made the ball fizz off the surface and almost removed Compton, initially with an edge that flew just short of third slip en route to the boundary and then having a strong lbw shout turned down. Instead it was Murtagh who made the breakthrough, moving the ball back up the slope to bowl Crawley - who had just dispatched him twice to the short off-side boundary - through the gate for 11. Bamber gained his reward for a miserly stint at the Pavilion End as Daniel Bell-Drummond flashed hard outside off stump and Eskinazi stretched across at first slip to pluck the ball out of the air. Jack Leaning was next to depart, taken in the slips prodding forward at Ryan Higgins - who also bowled consistently to return one for 13 - and Bamber struck again in the next over when he uprooted Jordan Cox's off stump to send him on his way for a fourth-ball duck. Murtagh kept the pressure on Kent post-lunch, producing an inswinging yorker that pinned Billings in front for 14, but Joey Evison did his best to bring some impetus to the innings with boundaries off Murtagh and Helm. Evison's knock was brought to an abrupt end as soon as Bamber rejoined the attack and had the all-rounder caught behind, persuading him to nibble at the first delivery of his second spell. Grant Stewart - who made his only first-class hundred against Middlesex back in 2018 - went for his shots, lifting Bamber into the Mound Stand to reach 16 not out before the light deteriorated and the umpires halted play at 3pm.

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