Veteran seamer stars against former team to take contest into final-day chase
Leicestershire 136 (Parkinson 41, Andersson 4-27) and 75 for 1 need another 303 runs to beat Middlesex 295 (Simpson 95*) and 218 (Eskinazi 46, Wright 6-48)
Wright will quietly turn 36 in a little over seven weeks’ time and given that he already has the gait of a man perpetually longing to put his feet up, he may shudder at the thought. Yet he keeps taking wickets, swelling his total for the season so far to 28 with 6 for 48 as he tried gamely to keep Leicestershire in with a chance here.
It probably wasn’t enough, sadly. Even on a pitch that has held together pretty well so far, despite the rising temperature, chasing 378 in the fourth innings looks a daunting task for the side propping up Group Two in the Championship. With Murtagh rested, the Middlesex attack is light on experience, yet they are a talented bunch.
It was largely down to Wright that Leicestershire were able to keep their opponents honest, as modern commentators are wont to say, by bowling them out, rather than allowing them the opportunity to set a target of their own design.
Ben Mike struggled with his line at the Pavilion End but picked up a wicket when Gubbins bottom edged into his stumps, which meant Middlesex had to regroup with two men at the crease who had yet to score and they suffered another setback when Will Davis got one past Robbie White’s defensive bat to clip the off stump.
Wright’s return after lunch came sooner than expected, but it paid off again and three more wickets in the afternoon session were no more than he deserved for his efforts to keep Leicestershire in the game.
A fine, athletic catch by Ed Barnes gave him the first of those as John Simpson pulled to midwicket, the wicketkeeper falling for 17 after his unbeaten 95 of the first innings, before he made another one come back to gain an lbw decision against Martin Andersson, who was reasonably well forward but in line.
Mike again was a little erratic, but nonetheless struck an important blow in having Peter Handscomb caught behind. The Australian had built himself a platform to attack but was drawn into a loose drive, feathering a catch behind.
Wright, who left Lord’s at the end of Murtagh’s first season there, completed his second five-for against his former employers, the other being for Warwickshire at Edgbaston nine years ago, when Tom Helm, defending on the back foot, was bowled off an inside edge.
Leicestershire now felt they were in the game, the Middlesex lead still in chaseable territory, and it was little wonder that there were cries of exasperation, not least from bowler Ed Barnes, when a chance for the ninth wicket went begging, Hollman edging between wicketkeeper and first slip on 15. Harry Swindells, the young Leicestershire gloveman, knew it was his to take.
As it was, the 20-year-old Hollman, who has the talent to bat higher than No 8, had made 26 – giving him 58 in only his third first-class match – by the time he became Wright’s sixth victim via a sharp low catch at second slip after tea, the other wicket the only one in the innings to fall to spin as Callum Parkinson turned one into Ethan Bamber’s back pad.
With that, the old boy was making a beeline for The Meet, the Grace Road landmark that currently serves as the home dressing rooms, taking in the almost-forgotten accompaniment of spectator applause but already mentally removing his boots, relieved that he won’t need to do it all again at least until next week.