Tim Murtagh is 'last of dying breed' as seamer bows out with Lord's five-for

Tim Murtagh was celebrated on the Lord's outfield ahead of his impending retirement ESPNcricinfo Ltd

Tim Murtagh is the "last of a dying breed" whose achievements in first-class cricket should be "cherished", according to his former Middlesex team-mate, Steven Finn, after Murtagh marked his 91st and final appearance at Lord's with first-innings figures of 6 for 83 against Warwickshire.

After resuming with the overnight figures of 5 for 55, Murtagh added to his tally by bowling Craig Miles for 29, but his efforts may not be enough to save Middlesex from defeat, or even the threat of relegation. Warwickshire still secured a significant first-innings lead of 194, thanks to a century from their captain Will Rhodes and 99 for Danny Briggs.

But, at the age of 42, it was another timeless display of technique and stamina from Murtagh, a player who now boasts a career haul of 957 first-class wickets, including 33 at 19.85 for this campaign alone. Whether or not he plays in Middlesex's final match of the season at Trent Bridge next week, he is set to remain with the club on the back-room staff next year, having served as a player-coach this season.

During the lunch interval, Murtagh's achievements were marked with a ceremony in front of the pavilion at Lord's, in which he was presented with a framed montage of his career by two of his longest-standing team-mates, Finn and the former club wicketkeeper Ben Scott.

"He's been part of the furniture for this club for years now, the main bowler and the main wicket-taker," Finn said after the presentation. "You can't underestimate his influence within the dressing-room as well, which is why the club wants to keep him on in a bowling-coach capacity. So yeah, it's going to be weird not seeing Tim Murtagh opening the bowling from the Nursery End, as he has done for such a long time.

Scott, who kept wicket to Murtagh at both Surrey and Middlesex, jokingly described his former team-mate as a "diesel Mondeo", as he praised the reliability and endurance that had carried him to a professional career that has now spanned 24 seasons. "People like him could quite easily have fallen by the wayside, but he went with it, he learned to adapt," Scott said. "Certainly, with the way the game went, he's come out on top.

"He certainly didn't start off with the skillset that he has now, there's no doubt about that," Scott added. "I describe athletes as either Ferraris or Mondeos: Ferraris are great and can fly through but they break very easily; Murts, I would categorise as a Mondeo. He doesn't necessarily go particularly fast but he keeps going. We'll call him a diesel Mondeo, which is probably fitting - he should leave London fairly soon.

"I was there at the start with Surrey, and we were behind a serious side [Surrey won the County Championship in 1999, 2000 and 2002]. We had to learn our trade, so he had a lot of second-team cricket where you were just learning how to take wickets. We played on some very flat wickets, some spin-friendly wickets in those early days in club cricket. He definitely learned, and then he transferred that skill when he came to this side of the river."

Finn, who played alongside Murtagh in Middlesex's County Championship-winning side in 2016, said that that year's triumph - capped with victory over Yorkshire in a memorable title decider at Lord's - deserved to be recalled as the crowning glory of his career, notwithstanding his incredible display for Ireland in the Lord's Test in 2019, when he claimed 5 for 13 on the first morning to bowl England out for 85.

"The 2016 Championship win was the culmination of all those years building up towards that win," Finn said. "The bowling unit that we had, not just Murts and myself, but [Toby] Roland-Jones, [James] Harris … you felt that, with three of us out on the park at any given time, led by Murts, we were a potent threat, and it proved to be so."

That knowledge will soon be reinvested into the Middlesex set-up as Murtagh begins his career as a full-time coach, a role that both Finn and Scott believe he is ideally suited to fulfilling.

"He just captivates people's hearts: everyone loves Murts," Scott said. "He says it how it is, he's not afraid to take the mickey. He has found the right balance in doing that, and I think that is so valuable: communicating with people, we need that. The youngsters coming through need to understand what it's like to be part of a team.

Finn added: "He knows how to take wickets, and what you want from a bowling coach is experience and lived experience in the field. No one's taken more … I don't know who would have taken more wickets for Middlesex, other than people pre-war.

"As a bowling coach, the biggest challenge is to impart that knowledge and to be able to converse with people who are younger. And, as a 42-year-old, he's still one of the most popular people within the dressing room. He's still popular and able to communicate with those people, which is a great skill as a bowling coach."

Since moving to Middlesex in 2007, Murtagh has racked up 841 first-class wickets at 23.49 for the club, including 817 in the County Championship and Bob Willis Trophy, which is almost 200 clear of his nearest challenger, Chris Rushworth of Durham and latterly Warwickshire. Only James Anderson among contemporary seamers has more first-class wickets, although the bulk of his tally of 1104 have come in Test cricket (690).

"I can't see anyone else challenging those sorts of numbers," Finn said. "The game has changed unfathomably, even within the last five years, with the lean towards T20 cricket. So he is the sort of person who should be, and will be, cherished for the way that he has played the game.

"For a certain generation of people, this will be the mark of what a truly successful cricketer is - your first-class record. He is one of the last of a dying breed. Certainly, within the next three or four years, as those guys die out, for want of a better phrase, there aren't going to be too many of them left. They should be cherished and should be celebrated."