Simpson century leads Middlesex fightback
Middlesex fought back strongly to lead Lancashire by 64 runs at the end of a second day in this Specsavers County Championship match that was in complete contrast to the first.
After clinching the second division title yesterday and taking six Middlesex wickets late in the proceedings, Lancashire spent most of today in the field with Matt Parkinson taking three of the four remaining wickets as the visitors achieved a record total.
Middlesex were in disarray after a batting collapse had reduced their reply to Lancashire’s first innings 259 to a paltry 39-6 on the first day, but it was a completely different story as they batted for the majority of the second to transform their hopes.
John Simpson produced a magnificent unbeaten innings of 167 to steer Middlesex to 337 all out and into an unlikely lead of 78 runs.
It was the highest first-class total made by a side that had lost its first six wickets for less than 40 runs.
Lancashire had made 14-1 in their second innings by the close, Alex Davies the man out for a duck after top edging a pull off Miguel Cummins to James Harris at fine leg.
Keaton Jennings (7 not out) and nightwatchman Saqib Mahmood (5 not out) will be at the crease when play resumes in the morning.
Simpson and James Harris started the Middlesex revival with a century partnership in the first part of the day that slowly but surely brought the visitors back into the game after their calamitous start.
The pair batted through the entire morning session adding 93 runs in fairly untroubled fashion on a pitch that had eased up considerably from the opening day, only to be parted soon after lunch.
Harris had made a resolute 32 from 107 balls when he was beaten by a beautiful turning delivery from Parkinson that pitched on leg stump and hit the top of his off stump to break a 107-run partnership that had frustrated Lancashire for 39 overs.
Simpson, who had started the day with a nicely timed drive for four to wide long-on, reached his half century from 73 balls by driving Graham Onions through cover for his tenth boundary, before thumping a straight six off Liam Livingstone as the visitors steadily closed in on the Lancashire total.
The wicketkeeper/batsman produced some lovely strokes on his way to completing his seventh century, and first against Lancashire, from 154 balls and enjoying a 76-run partnership with Toby Roland-Jones who hit a breezy 32 before he skied a catch to Onions at mid-on off Parkinson.
Simpson steered Middlesex ahead of Lancashire’s 259 just after tea, combining with Nathan Sowter in a third consecutive stand of fifty plus, and going to a career-best score when pushing a single to cover off Onions to reach 144 in the 88th over.
Sowter, who contributed some thumping drives of his own, reached his fifty from 63 balls with a square drive through cover that also set a new 9th wicket record partnership of 94 for Middlesex against Lancashire before glancing Mahmood to Livingstone at slip for 52.
Simpson by then had reached his 150 from 236 balls (24 fours, 1 six) and was left unbeaten on 167 after 5 hours and 47 minutes at the crease by the time last man Ethan Bamber offered up an easy catch off Parkinson to end the Middlesex innings on 337.
Simpson walked off to a standing ovation after producing a marvellous innings that had helped completely turn around his team’s fortunes in this game.
Matt Parkinson, who took three of the four Middlesex wickets to fall today, admitted: "It was a long afternoon. When you get a side six down at the start of play you don’t think you’ll be fielding at five in the afternoon.
"It was a tough day but the lads are pleased to have won the Division Two title."
The conditions changed significantly today and Parkinson said: "It says a lot about how well Tom Bailey bowled yesterday. The wicket has got better.
"I don’t think we bowled badly today but obviously John Simpson batted very well. Our plan was to bowl them out before lunch and then bat big but that wasn’t the case."
And Parkinson is looking forward to bowling again on this track.
"Fingers crossed the lads can bat well tomorrow and from a selfish point of view it would be nice to bowl on day four.
"It turned a bit today and as the game goes on you’d hope it would turn more on day four."
Photos: Barry Mitchell
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