Josh Simpson led Middlesex to a fightback against Gloucestershire
ECB Reporters Network
- Credit: PA
John Simpson led Middlesex’s fightback from 39 for four with an unbeaten half-century in their LV= Insurance County Championship clash against Worcestershire.
A three-wicket burst by Charlie Morris had put the visitors on top at Lord’s, with Middlesex only 12 ahead after teenager Josh Baker’s maiden half-century saddled them with a first-innings deficit of 27.
Tim Murtagh finished with five for 64 as Worcestershire were eventually bowled out for 171.
Max Holden and Martin Andersson both contributed valuable runs before Simpson’s unbroken stand of 80 with Luke Hollman steered the Seaxes to 233 for six at stumps, an overall advantage of 206.
Looking to wrap up Worcestershire’s first innings quickly in the morning, the home side were thwarted by Baker, who bludgeoned a series of boundaries.
The 18-year-old heaved Murtagh through midwicket to reach 50 and slammed the bowler’s next delivery back past him for four more, eventually finishing unbeaten on 61 from 51 balls.
Murtagh completed his five-for by clean bowling Morris but, by the time last man Dillon Pennington was leg before to Hollman, Worcestershire had added 58 in 45 minutes.
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By contrast, Mark Stoneman took the same time to register a duck as he became the first of two victims for Morris before lunch – the other, Stephen Eskinazi, falling to a blinding catch by Gareth Roderick at midwicket.
Morris collected his third straight after the interval when Robbie White edged to second slip and, with Sam Robson caught behind off Joe Leach’s outswinger in the next over, Middlesex appeared to be sinking fast.
However, Andersson went for his shots, timing the ball nicely and finding the gaps as he and Holden levered their side out of trouble, sharing a fifth-wicket stand of 66.
Ed Barnard broke the partnership by trapping Andersson in front for 45, but Holden looked set for his second half-century of the match as he unfurled some eye-catching strokes, the best of them a hook for four off Pennington.
The left-hander survived a couple of chances but his good fortune ran out at 46, with Daryl Mitchell – who had missed an earlier opportunity to remove Holden – taking a thick edge at second slip.
There was a close call for Simpson on 48 when he hammered Barnard to midwicket but Baker was unable to cling on and the batsman took advantage, progressing to 59 not out at the close, with Hollman undefeated on 40.
Middlesex’s John Simpson, who finished the day on 59 not out, said: “It was a pretty sticky situation to be in, effectively 12 for four, but I thought the way we went about things was great to watch, really positive.
“It was great to spend a bit of time out in the middle and to get a 200-run lead in the end was a bonus.
“The way Martin (Andersson) and Max (Holden) played gave me and Luke (Hollman) the freedom to go and play the way we normally do towards the end of the day, to cash in and put on a good partnership.
“Nobody wants to be in Division Three, but I think the way we’ve played in the last two or three weeks has shown we’re making really good strides.”
Worcestershire’s Josh Baker, whose 61 not out was his maiden first-class half-century, said: “I’ve never been to Lord’s before, so it’s really nice to get a first-class fifty and do it here.
"I was trying to play positively and be proactive after a couple of weeks of getting ducks and stuff, so I changed it up a bit.
“We were looking to get within about 10 of them and anything after that was a bonus. Once we got ahead, we were just trying to get as many as possible quickly.
“They fought back strongly but I think the game’s quite evenly balanced at the minute and the wicket’s getting a lot flatter.
“Whatever Middlesex set us tomorrow, we’d back our batters when they come to chase it down.”