Middlesex 293 for 8 (Simpson 92, Eskinazi 64, Higgins 53) vs Leicestershire
Middlesex, who started the penultimate round on 188 points – 27 behind leaders Nottinghamshire but 12 ahead of third-placed Glamorgan, finished the day on 293 for 8 with Simpson falling for 92 after Eskinazi had scored 64 and Higgins 53.
Having chosen to put Middlesex in on a pitch that made batting tricky for much of the day, Leicestershire mostly bowled well as Michael Finan finished with 3 for 54, with Tom Scriven and Callum Parkinson taking two wickets each but paid dearly for some sloppy fielding, dropping Eskinazi on 11 and Simpson on 29.
Middlesex had been four down for 91 at lunch after Leicestershire enjoyed a good morning with the ball but recovered to 196 for 5 at tea
Finan, the 26-year-old left-arm seamer plucked out of National Counties cricket, caught the eye again in his third first-class match, beginning the day by removing both Middlesex overs in an impressive opening spell with the new ball.
He dismissed Mark Stoneman with his fifth ball, which straightened enough to have him leg before, and then bowled Sam Robson behind his legs. He would have had a third but wicketkeeper Harry Swindells spilled a chance off the glove offered by Eskinazi.
Scriven, another recent addition to Leicestershire’s bowling resources, had Pieter Malan caught behind two balls after he’d got away with a streaky edge that second slip probably should have claimed. Skipper and left-arm spinner Parkinson, heeding some criticism about delaying his introduction against Durham last week, was on after 75 minutes and struck in the last over before lunch when his decision to install a short leg for Max Holden reaped a dividend as Sol Budinger took an excellent one-handed catch.
Eskinazi completed a 94-ball half-century soon after driving Chris Wright through extra cover for his ninth four. After a watchful start to the session against another testing spell by Finan, a double bowling change allowed Simpson to get into his stride. A couple of boundaries off Scriven were particularly easy on the eye.
Leicestershire were handed a gift when Eskinazi threw away his wicket. Presumably trying to create a different angle, he walked down the pitch almost before Scriven reached the crease and left his stumps completely exposed. It was the cricket equivalent of an open goal and Scriven gratefully converted it.
It ended a 49-run partnership for the fifth wicket but by tea Simpson and Higgins had added another 56, Simpson having been the beneficiary on 29 of another dropped catch, this time put down at mid-wicket off Ed Barnes.
A six down the ground by Simpson off Rehan Ahmed’s leg spin straight after tea was followed by the wicketkeeper-batter’s seventh boundary, eased past extra cover off Scriven, taking him to a 104-ball fifty, his eighth of the season.
The sixth-wicket pair built patiently thereafter against some tidy Leicestershire bowling, but their partnership was broken on 99 when Higgins, having just completed a solid 94-ball half-century with a well-timed clip through mid-wicket for four, took a stride forward to a ball from Parkinson that turned just enough to find the edge, Colin Ackermann holding the chance at slip having dropped the one at mid-wicket.
With that, Parkinson held back on asking for the new ball, Ahmed justifying the decision as Luke Hollman top-edged an attempted sweep straight to backward square, leaving Middlesex 248 for 7.
When the new ball came, Simpson seemed to enjoy the return of pace on to the bat but after moving into the 90s by driving a gift full toss from Finan down the ground for his 10th four he went to sweep the next ball and lived to regret it, sending up a top edge that Budinger safely pouched in the deep.
The day began with both teams forming a guard of honour for umpire Nick Cook, who is standing in his last match on this ground ahead of his retirement at the end of this season at the age of 66. Born in Leicester, Cook took 395 first-class wickets for Leicestershire as a left-arm spinner, as well as 52 in 15 Test matches.