John Simpson finds late support to rescue another top-order wobble
Middlesex 260 for 7 (Simpson 73*) vs Leicestershire
Middlesex feel they would have doubled their wins tally for the season but for the badly-timed arrival of rain at The Kia Oval last week and arrived here with a sense of relative optimism after another season in which that mood has been experienced only intermittently.
Moreover, against the only team in Group Two with a worse record than theirs, they have at least given themselves a chance of securing the second win that eluded them last week, following a fightback from 132 for 6 in the final session.
Increasingly frustrated with senior players unable to summon consistent form, Middlesex’s selection policy is shifting towards giving younger players their head. With the 39-year-old Tim Murtagh rested, the average age of their bowling attack here drops dramatically to 23.
The pair put on 90 for the seventh wicket, turning a position that had looked decidedly pessimistic at 132 for 6 midway through the afternoon into one that may yet look pretty useful. Although the two Middlesex spinners lack experience, batting last on it could be a difficult proposition for a home side yet to win a match.
Recalled for the first time in six matches, having been dropped after the defeats against Somerset and Hampshire that began Middlesex’s season, Eskinazi would have been disappointed not to cash in after seeing the shine off the new ball but Davis, who bowled very few loose deliveries, produced enough late movement to find the edge as the batsman sought to defend on the front foot.
Australian Test batsman Peter Handscomb essayed a couple of nice sweep shots for four off Parkinson but the pattern of Middlesex batters failing to build on decent starts continued when he was lbw on the back foot to Ed Barnes, who like Davis bowled with good control.
Five overs later, a promising position for Leicestershire turned into one they celebrated with rare enthusiasm in front of an appreciative crowd as Parkinson claimed two wickets in two balls. The Lancastrian, instinctively an attacking bowler who likes to make things happen, dismissed Robbie White with a flighted ball he edged to slip before Martin Andersson was beaten by one that turned past his defensive bat to strike him on the back pad. Luke Hollman plonked a solid block behind the hat-trick ball before getting off the mark with a straight hit to the boundary over the bowler’s head but from a Leicestershire perspective, tea at 148 for 6 came as an unwelcome pause.
Yet there was only one further reward as Simpson and Hollman dutifully applied themselves to the task. Parkinson could not maintain his hot streak and though the seamers kept their discipline they could find only one further breakthrough, Hollman eventually playing down the wrong line to one from Barnes with the second new ball that clipped the outside of his off stump.