ESSEX fast bowler Simon Harmer was happy to extend his side’s unbeaten start to the Championship season with a draw at Middlesex yesterday.

Bad light and some lower order resistance meant Essex avoided defeat at Lord’s.

And Harmer was happy to have stopped Middlesex coming out on top.

“To still be unbeaten after three Championship games since promotion is a very good start for us and this has turned out to be a very good draw,” said Harmer.

“We fought hard against a good side and from a personal point of view it was an enjoyable game.

“It was the first time I have played at Lord’s and it was nice to get some wickets, although I wish my economy rate had been a bit better perhaps.

“But it was a brilliant experience and hopefully I will have many more opportunities to play at Lord’s.”

Middlesex were on course for their first win of the season when they reduced Essex, who were chasing a notional target of 452, to 130 for 7 in the first over after tea.

But eighth wicket pair Neil Wagner and Harmer blunted Middlesex’s attack for 15 overs and as the light deteriorated home skipper James Franklin was forced to employ slow bowlers at both ends.

Leg spinner Dawid Malan immediately had Harmer (20) lbw as he tried to defend off the back foot but only two more overs were possible before umpires Ian Gould and Paul Baldwin took the players off for the third time in the day with 13 overs remaining, Essex 160 for 8 and Wagner unbeaten on 16. It was harsh on Middlesex whose three-man seam attack, backed up by off-spinner Ollie Rayner, had chipped away all day on a wicket which hardly deteriorated, even though cloud cover did encourage the ball to swing.

Toby Roland-Jones finished with 3 for 42 and Steven Finn 2 for 39 while it was Rayner picked up former England captain Alastair Cook caught at short leg for 37 with his third delivery of the day.

Cook had passed 20,000 first-class runs when he reached 16 and looked in the mood to repeat last week’s century in Essex’s win over Somerset, particularly when he drove first Tim Murtagh and then Roland-Jones back down the ground for four.

Apart from Cook, Essex’s main resistance came from Ravi Bopara (32) who dug in for just over two hours before he was seventh out in the first over after tea to a ball from Finn.

Conditions were as good as they had been all day at that stage but Harmer and Wagner defied Finn and Roland-Jones for 10 overs to give them their team the chance of escape.

Franklin had the luxury of runs on the board and enjoyed the happy knack of making bowling changes which brought immediate reward.

Middlesex’s slip fielding was faultless too with Malan epitomising their catching performance when he dived to his left to remove Adam Wheater for a duck.

Earlier, Nick Browne had been dismissed for 19, Tom Westley and Dan Lawrence 13, and Ryan ten Doeschate one before Bopara’s dismissal on the resumption left the Essex tail with 30 overs to survive.

But with a little help from the weather they were able to do so and picked up eight points for their efforts.