Abbas takes four on Championship return

DAY 1 | Middlesex CCC 325 for eight v Leicestershire CCC

SCORECARD | Available from Cricinfo HERE

REACTION | Head Coach Paul Nixon spoke to BBC Radio Leicester's Richard Rae at stumps. The interview is available HERE

REPORT | Muhammad Abbas made an instant impact on his return to the Specsavers County Championship as Leicestershire CCC stuck to their task admirably against Middlesex CCC at Lord's.

Abbas, who took eight for 64 on the ground during a man-of-the-match performance for Pakistan against England in 2018, was a constant threat and finished with figures of four for 57 as the hosts closed at 325 for eight.

His intelligent use of the natural angle to move the ball back into the right handers, as well as slanting it away from the left handers, was evident all day from the Pavilion End.

Abbas was well backed from the whole Foxes attack, including all-rounder Ben Mike and off-spinner Colin Ackermann, who took two wickets apiece. Chris Wright also charged in on a hot day in the capital, and deserved some reward.

For Middlesex CCC, Nick Gubbins top-scored with an attractive 75 while Tom Lace, making his debut for the county, and George Scott each posted a half-century. But with a short boundary towards the Mound Stand, and missing Tom Taylor for most of the day through injury, the Foxes could be pleased with their efforts. 

Abbas was making his maiden Specsavers County Championship appearance of the season, and straight into the action after captain Paul Horton opted against a coin toss.

The Pakistan star nipped the very first delivery of the game down the slope to make the breakthrough, Sam Robson (0) the unfortunate batsman to receive such a delivery.

Sharp fielding by Taylor almost instigated the run out of Max Holden, and the opener also nearly fell on 13 when nicking an Abbas delivery just short of Harry Dearden at third slip.

The two left-handers then formed a solid alliance as the session wore on as Middlesex CCC posted 95 for one.

Holden was watchful, accumulating three of his first five boundaries by guiding the ball through the covers and seeing it race across the square. No. 3 Gubbins cut and drove the ball impressively, particularly through the covers, in reaching a half-century from 83 balls.

With Middlesex CCC 95 for one at lunch, the Foxes opted for a seam-spin combination after the interval, and it worked nicely.

Ackermann was unfortunate to see a Gubbins edge run away for four, while Abbas struck for a second time to end the partnership at 113 with a peach of a delivery.

It was another good example of using the gradient, with a ball to Holden (41) looking to be coming in, then moving away beautifully off the seam on its way through to Lewis Hill.

Gubbins continued to look the part, with drives off Abbas going through cover point and mid-on, but the sweep stroke proved to be his downfall.

After an appeal for leg before by Ackermann, a second attempt was also unsuccessful, coming off the top of the bat and looping into the grateful hands of Abbas at short fine-leg to end a fine knock three-quarters of the way to 100.

Leicestershire CCC were now on top and there was a double bowling change in Mike and Wright. The experienced seamer found the edge of Lace but the ball dropped just short of Horton at first slip.

Ackermann then returned from the Nursery End to positive effect, with Stevie Eskinazi (33) edging an attempting cut. Hill snapped up the sharpest of opportunities to end what had been a lively innings from the home skipper.

The ebb and flow theme continued as Lace and John Simpson joined forces, with the youngster playing some impressive strokes. There was a heart-in-mouth moment as an attempted pull off Abbas looped over Horton at slip, but Lace got through to 50 off 87 balls (8x4) by tea.

That break seemed to benefit the Foxes, as Mark Cosgrove and Mike formed a useful partnership in the evening session.

Mike dismissed the set batsmen in the same over. Lace (51) was caught at the wicket off a jaffa - one that bounced and moved away to take the outside edge - before Simpson played forward and was leg before.

The young all-rounder continued to cause problems with bounce and movement but Scott collected a brace of boundaries through the covers in the 70th over.

Cosgrove was extremely accurate and did an excellent job up to the new ball, and Abbas built on that by pinning both James Harris (24) and Ollie Rayner (0) in front.

But, as had been the theme for the day, the hosts continued to battle under glorious sunshine at the Home of Cricket, with Scott and Helm seeing them through to stumps by sharing an unbroken 41. Scott registered 50 from 69 balls (5x4, 1x6) in the process.

FIGURES | Abbas 26-9-57-4, Wright 22-8-68-0, Taylor 6-0-26-0, Mike 17-2-95-2, Ackermann 15-1-53-2, Cosgrove 10-4-18-0.

TEAM | Horton (capt), Javid, Azad, Cosgrove, Ackermann, Dearden, Hill (wk), Taylor, Mike, Wright, Abbas.

Middlesex CCC | Robson, Holden, Gubbins, Lace, Eskinazi (capt), Simpson (wk), Harris, Scott, Rayner, Helm, Bamber.

IMAGES | Thanks to John Mallett of Outside Off for providing the images throughout the game.