16th May 2019
Foxes require a further 267 at Lord's
DAY 3 | Middlesex CCC 349 and 223 v Leicestershire CCC 268 and 38 for 0
SCORECARD | Available from Cricinfo HERE
REACTION | Leicestershire CCC bowler Chris Wright spoke to BBC Radio Leicester's Richard Rae at stumps. The interview is available HERE
REPORT | The pendulum continued to swing on the third day of the fascinating Specsavers County Championship game between Middlesex CCC and Leicestershire CCC at Lord’s.
At the start of the day, Leicestershire CCC added 11 with their tenth wicket partnership to end the first innings at 268, a deficit of 81.
An outstanding bowling and fielding performance then reduced Middlesex CCC to 114 for eight in their second innings before a ninth wicket stand of 85 between John Simpson (59*) and Tom Helm (46) saw the Seaxes up to 223.
Wickets were shared with Tom Taylor and Chris Wright snaring three apiece, Ben Mike claiming a brace, Muhammad Abbas again being a picture of accuracy and Colin Ackermann also chipped in.
It left Leicestershire CCC with a victory target of 305, and they knocked 38 off that in the 13 remaining overs. But, arguably more crucially, they have all ten wickets remaining thanks to excellent batting from Ateeq Javid (4*) and Paul Horton (27*).
So in a remarkable game of similar themes, Leicestershire CCC will virtually require their first innings score on the final day to emerge victorious, a position they would have taken at the start of the day.
With every run being of great importance in this game, the Foxes battled hard in the latter stages of the first innings.
Wright punched an early boundary through the covers and another four came courtesy of byes. Wright (12) was then bowled by Helm.
The Foxes received a boost as Taylor was able to bowl on the third morning after picking up an injury on day one, and he made two big breakthroughs from the Nursery End.
Max Holden (5) edged a good delivery from the seamer and Ackermann took the sharpest of chances at second slip.
His opening partner Sam Robson, who played some good strokes in compiling 22, then got a feather to a delivery that seamed away into the safe hands of Lewis Hill.
At 32 for two, Middlesex were leading by 113, and in need of a partnership. Gubbins immediately looked in good touch with a rasping cover drive being one of three early boundaries.
But he lost Tom Lace (4) to Wright, who was getting considerable movement from the Nursery End. One such away-swinging delivery found the edge of Lace’s bat and went to captain Horton at first slip.
That brought home captain Stevie Eskinazi to the crease alongside Gubbins, and he collected a trio of fours when Taylor returned for a second spell from the Pavilion End, two of which were sent in the extra cover region.
Middlesex lunched at 73 for 3 - an overall lead of 154 - in a hard-fought session in keeping with the rest of the game.
Gubbins (36) and Eskinazi (20) continued positive intent after the interval and Leicestershire CCC needed their wickets to keep the run rate in check.
Both set batsmen fell with the score at 91 as the Foxes seized control. Wright, who had bowled beautifully throughout the game, was now getting tangible reward when Gubbins got a touch to a ball that moved across him.
Then came an absolute wonder catch by Ackermann, who dived one-handed to his right to catch Eskinazi from the bowling of Abbas.
Suddenly Simpson and George Scott were paired together without having scored with a rebuilding job on their hands.
Scott (3) was yorked by Wright as Middlesex CCC slipped deeper into trouble, and although James Harris (12) fought hard, he was well-held by a diving Hill as Taylor claimed his third wicket.
Middlesex CCC were effectively now 194 for seven, a position that worsened when Ollie Rayner was caught at bat-pad by Hassan Azad from the bowling of his off-spinning counterpart Ackermann.
There was another extremely sharp chance in that area off the same bowler but it didn’t quite go to hand, and Helm went on to share a valuable alliance with Simpson.
Helm grew in confidence, clipping three fours off his pads before producing a couple of drives that went to the cover boundary.
The wicket-keeper was generally content to knock the ball around but also latched on to a short Ackermann delivery to collect his third boundary. By tea, the duo had registered the 50-run partnership with Middlesex CCC at 166 for eight, leading by 247.
Their frustrating alliance continued in the evening session as Simpson flicked fours down to fine-leg and third man while Helm nicked one away before producing a superb drive through mid-on.
Mike nipped one back down the slope to trap Helm in front as the partnership was ultimately broken at 85.
Simpson’s eighth four, a flowing drive through extra cover, took him to a valuable 50 from 123 balls before Mike produced another in-ducker to remove Ethan Bamber lbw.
A 13-over period tested Javid and Horton, but amid solid defence, the captain produced fine strokes to pick up a quartet of boundaries either side of the wicket.
So the game, which has ebbed and flowed throughout, remains intriguingly poised.
FIGURES (1st inns) | Abbas 30-9-72-4, Wright 25.3-9-77-1, Taylor 6-0-26-0, Mike 17-2-95-2, Ackermann 15-1-53-2, Cosgrove 10-4-18-0.
FIGURES (2nd inns) | Abbas 19-8-31-1, Taylor 19-3-74-3, Wright 18-4-51-3, Mike 5.4-1-30-2, Ackermann 13-1-34-1.
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.