County Championship: Middlesex held to draw by Gloucestershire

Middlesex's James Harris (pic John Walton/PA)

Middlesex's James Harris (pic John Walton/PA) - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

James Bracey’s second century of the season saw Gloucestershire comfortably salvage a draw in their County Championship clash with Middlesex at Lord’s.

The Bristol-born left-hander mixed obdurate defence and steely concentration with a sprinkling of boundaries to lead the visitors to safety on the final day after they had been forced to follow on.

Bracey raised his ton with his 12th four, clenching his fist in celebration of 272 minutes of sterling effort, before finishing undefeated on 125.

Wicketkeeper Gareth Roderick (48) and Jack Taylor (41) lent staunch support on a day when the home side’s bowling attack toiled hard, but never looked likely to claim the eight wickets needed to force a win.

Middlesex, badly needing a win after a spluttering start to the red-ball campaign, were always going to need early wickets on day four, but in Bracey and Roderick met two batsmen determined to entrench.

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Bracey survived two LBW shouts on 19, the latter from spinner Ollie Rayner the closer of the two, but those scares apart was relatively untroubled. One straight drive for four off Steven Finn underlined his burgeoning talent.

Roderick too offered no cause for optimism to the Lord’s tenants as they went wicketless to the lunch interval.

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The breakthrough came soon after the resumption when Roderick pushed at one slanting across him from James Harris and edged to Rayner who took a smart low catch at second slip.

One wicket though failed to bring two as Jack Taylor took up the baton for the visitors.

Bracey soon had 50 and as the afternoon wore on the Middlesex bowlers tired, offering him the chance to expand his repertoire of strokes.

Taylor too played nicely though he should have been run out when a drive from Bracey was deflected onto the stumps by bowler Tom Helm with the non-striker having strayed beyond the safety of the crease. However, vehement appeals from both bowler and captain Dawid Malan went unheeded.

The 26-year-old wouldn’t make the most of the reprieve, inside edging a ball from Harris (3-60) onto his stumps shortly before tea, but by then a draw was within Gloucestershire’s grasp.

The interval served only to delay what had long seemed an inevitable hundred for Bracey, a hugely creditable effort despite the increasingly benign pitch conditions.

Graeme van Buuren (46 not out) joined in the fun after tea until the inevitable handshakes came.

Failure to bowl the visitors out twice over the final two days means Middlesex, pre-season favourites for an immediate return to county cricket’s top tier, have just one win from five games and are already more than 30 points adrift of leaders Warwickshire.

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