Cricket: Simpson keeps Middlesex in contention
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John Simpson’s first County Championship half-century for two years kept Middlesex in contention on a riveting third day against Leicestershire at Lord’s.
It was 2017 the last time the doughty wicketkeeper reached such heights willow in hand, but here he was at his obdurate best, dragging his side from the mire of 114-8 in the wake of superb bowling from Seaxe old boy Chris Wright (3-51) and Tom Taylor (3-74).
His more than three-hour vigil saw him finish 59 not out and left Leicestershire a target of 305.
However, the Foxes survived unscathed to the close, reaching 38-0 raising hopes of a first win for the county at Lord's since 1980.
Leicestershire began the day 257-9 in their first innings and added a further 11 before Tom Helm uprooted Wright's off-stump with one which seamed in off the wicket.
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That gave the hosts a lead of 81, but they were soon in trouble second time around.
Taylor, who only bowled six overs in the first innings because of a back niggle, put that pain behind him to have Max Holden taken by Colin Ackerman at slip with just nine on the board.
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Sam Robson, who'd come out on a king pair, played confidently for a while, but Taylor's impressive spell accounted for him too, a little movement off the seam seeing the former England man edge to wicketkeeper Lewis Hill.
Wright too was then in the action, grabbing the wicket of debutant Tom Lace before lunch, caught at slip.
As in the first innings, Nick Gubbins played with increasing assurance, his cover drive, a thing of beauty, but he was undone during Wright's impressive post-lunch burst, edging one which left him a fraction through to Hill.
His departure was the first of three wickets for just three runs as Middlesex faltered.
Skipper Eskinazi flashed at a loose one from Mohammad Abbas, though it needed a stunning one-handed catch at full stretch by Ackerman to send him on his way.
And it was 94-6 when Wright struck again, scattering George Scott's stumps with a venomous Yorker.
A brief lull in the procession ended when Taylor found the edge of James Harris' bat to give Hill his sixth catch of the match.
And Ollie Rayner didn't detain us long, prodding Ackerman into the hands of Hasan Azad at short-leg.
At 114-8 Stuart Law's men were on the ropes, but not for the first time in Middlesex colours John Simpson answered the call.
His efforts relied on staunch support from Helm (46), who for the second time in the match produced shots belying his place at No 10 in the order, one off-drive in particular a candidate for shot of the day.
The pair added 85 for the ninth wicket before Helm fell LBW to Ben Mike, but last man Ethan Bamber stayed long enough to see Simpson to his long-awaited landmark and stretch the lead beyond 300.
Hopes of a wicket before the close were thwarted however, with skipper Paul Horton (28 not out) in particular suggesting a successful final day run-chase is more than possible.