Cricket: Simpson stars as Middlesex lead at Lancashire

John Simpson of Middlesex. Pic: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo

John Simpson of Middlesex. Pic: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo - Credit: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo

A quite extraordinary day’s cricket at Emirates Old Trafford saw Middlesex recover from their overnight 39-6 thanks to Lancashire-born John Simpson, who made an unbeaten 167 not out.

Simpson's career-best innings included 26 fours and one six and, having conceded an utterly unexpected first-innings lead of 78, Lancashire were 14-1 at the close and the Division Two champions may even have a fight on their hands to preserve their unbeaten record over the last two days of this game.

Simpson shared three substantial partnerships during his 347-minute innings as he put on 107 for the seventh wicket with James Harris, 76 for the eighth with Toby Roland-Jones and 94 for the ninth with Nathan Sowter, the latter setting a new ninth-wicket record for Middlesex against Lancashire.

But the signs were good for Middlesex in the opening overs of the day as Simpson and Harris batted with near-perfect competence in the morning session and had taken their side to 132-6 at lunch.

They had already changed the shape of a game hitherto dominated by the hosts and a quarter of an hour before lunch Lancashire's spinners, Liam Livingstone and Parkinson were operating in tandem but neither could make a breakthrough.

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Having reached his half-century off 73 balls with a cover drive off Graham Onions, Simpson hit Livingstone for a straight six but that was only a prelude to a further assault in the afternoon session.

Middlesex's batsmen continued their domination in the second session and by tea the visitors were 252-8, only eight runs short of taking an entirely unexpected first-innings lead. Their continued revival was led quite brilliantly by Simpson, who was 137 not out at tea, having made his second century of the season but his first against the county of his birth,

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Simpson had reached his century off 154 balls with a pulled four off Tom Bailey, the seamer who had caused his team so much trouble.

Lancashire did, however, take two wickets in the session and both were claimed by Matt Parkinson, who bowled Harris for 32 with a classic leg spinner and then had Roland-Jones caught by Onions, also for 32, when he skied Parkinson behind the bowler and the fielder ran round from mid-on.

In the evening session Middlesex's batsmen continued to torment a tiring Lancashire attack and Sowter reached his fifty off 63 balls with seven fours as Simpson got to 150 off 236 balls.

Lancashire's bowlers received some reward for their efforts when Sowter was caught at slip by Livingstone off Saqib Mahmood for 52 but Simpson then added 26 with Ethan Bamber for the last wicket before Bamber top-edged a slog off Parkinson to Keaton Jennings at slip.

The most successful Lancashire bowler was Bailey, who ended the innings with 5-78; twenty-four hours previously his figures had been 5-16. Parkinson took 3-49.

Lancashire's second innings began badly when Alex Davies top edged a pull off Miguel Cummins to Harris at long leg and thus departed for a five-ball duck.

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