MIDDLESEX are closing in on County Championship safety after securing an invaluable batting bonus-point on day one of their relegation decider with Lancashire at Old Trafford.
Lancashire trail Middlesex by 19 points in the Division One table, so must win the match and earn three more bonus points than their rivals in order to survive.
Middlesex won the toss and, somewhat surprisingly, chose to bat first. And they were left reeling on 180-9 with Glen Chapple (4-55) and Luke Procter (4-50) doing the damage.
But a final-wicket stand of 34 between James Harris (27no) and Ravi Patel (18) took Middlesex past the magic 200, before they were dismissed for 214.
However, Middlesex were unable to do their own damage with the ball, as the day was prematurely cut short due to rain and bad light.
In Division Two, meanwhile, Jesse Ryder took career-best figures of five wickets for 24 as promotion hopefuls Essex bowled out Worcestershire for 84 and closed on 198-3 in reply.