Cricket: Middlesex on back foot at Gloucestershire
- Credit: PA Wire/PA Images
Unheralded Ben Charlesworth played a starring role with bat and ball as Gloucestershire assumed the upper hand on day two of their Specsavers County Championship match against Second Division promotion hopefuls Middlesex at Bristol.
Making only his third first-class appearance, the 17-year-old Academy product raised a career-best 77 not out to propel the hosts to 296 and then took 3-21 from eight overs as Middlesex limped to the close on 182-7, still 114 behind.
Discarded England batsman Dawid Malan offered stubborn resistance in making 62, but the home side were firmly in the ascendant when Matt Taylor dismissed him in the penultimate over.
Teenage rookie Charlesworth initially distinguished himself as Gloucestershire staged a notable recovery after resuming their first innings on 208-7. In danger of falling short, the hosts were indebted to the 17-year-old A-Level student, who registered his maiden first-class half century to propel his team to a respectable total.
Given permission to play by St Edward’s School in Oxford, Charlesworth batted for just under three-and-a-half hours, facing 161 balls and accruing seven fours and a six, hit straight back over Malan’s head, before finally running out of partners.
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Having demonstrated sound defence the previous evening, he displayed excellent shot selection and the strength of character needed to take charge of the lower order and retain the strike.
Dropped behind on 29 off the bowling of Ethan Bamber, Charlesworth made good his escape to stage a meaningful partnership of 58 with Matt Taylor, a Gloucestershire record for the last wicket in matches against Middlesex. In so doing, they eclipsed the landmark set by Martyn Ball and Courtney Walsh at Lord’s in 1998.
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Fellow teenager and England Under-19 international Bamber also excelled, removing Craig Miles and David Payne in quick succession to return figures of 4-81, while James Harris pinned Matt Taylor lbw to wrap up the innings shortly before lunch.
Requiring at least one partnership of major substance if they were to match Gloucestershire’s performance on a low and slow track, Middlesex lost batsmen at regular intervals during the afternoon.
Openers Sam Robson and Nick Gubbins failed to establish themselves, falling to Miles and Ryan Higgins respectively as Gloucestershire made good use of the new ball. Eskanazi partially redressed the balance in scoring a patient 45, only to be pinned lbw in the crease by the ubiquitous Charlesworth with the score on 103.
When England one-day captain Eoin Morgan was bowled by Matt Taylor for 16 and Charlsworth accounted for Max Holden and the experienced Paul Stirling in quick succession, the visitors were 161-6, under real pressure for the first time in the match and heavily dependent upon their captain.
Although he lived a charmed life at times, Malan represented his team’s best chance of achieving the victory they needed to maintain pressure on second-placed Kent.
The former England left hander had been at large for three hours, faced 122 balls and helped himself to 11 fours and reached 10,000 first-class runs when he pushed at a length ball from Matt Taylor and was held by Gareth Roderick shortly before the close.