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A superb 185 from Australian Test opener Marcus Harris enabled Leicestershire to break their duck for the LV=Insurance County Championship season by chasing down 378 to pull off a remarkable come-from-behind victory over Middlesex.
Leicestershire had been 159 in arrears on first innings after being bowled out for 136 but Harris and skipper Colin Ackerman, who made an unbeaten 126, shared a stand of 243 for the third wicket as Middlesex slipped to a sixth defeat, leaving them bottom of Group Two.
Although they suffered some jitters towards the end, Ackermann hit the winning runs to see them home by five wickets to complete the third highest successful fourth-innings run chase in Leicestershire’s history, bettered only when they reached targets of 391 to beat Derbyshire in 1947 and 381 to beat Northamptonshire in 1980, each time at Grace Road.
The match had sharp echoes of the 2018 meeting between these sides on this ground, when Middlesex, having been 194 behind on first innings, chased down 381 in the last innings to pull off an unlikely win, albeit by just one wicket.
The omens did not look good for Leicestershire when Sam Evans fell to the seventh ball of the day, caught behind down the leg side for the second time in the match with only eight runs added to their overnight score and still 295 needed.
Yet Middlesex’s young bowling attack could not claim another wicket before the final session when a weary Harris stabbed at one outside off stump and was caught behind off 22-year-old Thilan Walallawita, one of their two young spinners.
Shortly afterwards, Ackermann completed his first century for three years when he swept the same bowler for his 16th four, having faced 229 balls.
The Sri Lankan-born left-armer Walallawita set nerves jangling in the home crowd when he had new batsman Lewis Hill leg before in the next over.
Then Ackermann was dropped at third man by Martin Andersson off Ethan Bamber on 103 with 37 still required.
With 23 still needed, Leicestershire lost another wicket when Bamber uprooted Harry Swindells’s middle stump as the pressure began to tell but Ackermann and Ben Mike stayed calm, the captain hitting the winning runs when he swept leg-spinner Luke Hollman for three to fine leg with 23 balls to spare.
The left-handed Harris, who has 10 Test caps to his name, hit 21 fours and a six, having faced 311 deliveries. Until he was out, the only semblance of a chance he offered was on 175, when he was a whisker away from being caught and bowled by 20-year-old Hollman, who was unlucky that an impressive performance gained no reward.
The result underlined the value of Chris Wright’s six for 48 in Middlesex’s second innings to keep Leicestershire in the game.
Veteran pace bowler Chris Wright took six for 48 as Leicestershire fought to keep themselves in contention against Middlesex on the third day of their LV=Insurance County Championship Group Two match.
The 35-year-old’s third haul of five wickets or more this season was key to Middlesex’s dismissal for 218 in their second innings, in which opener Steven Eskinazi top-scored with 46.
But Leicestershire still face a daunting task in trying to score 378 to win their first match of the season on a pitch starting to take spin, having won only two matches in their Championship history chasing higher targets.
At the close they had trimmed 75 off that target in 32 overs, with Australian Marcus Harris on 41, having lost opening partner Hassan Azad in the third over when he top-edged a pull against Ethan Bamber to be caught at deep backward square.
Middlesex’s progress after resuming at 57 for one was checked by Wright bowling nine overs straight from the Bennett End and conceding only 16 runs. He denied Eskinazi a half-century, bowling him with one that jagged back between bat and pad after he and Nick Gubbins had added 73 for the second wicket.
Gubbins did not survive him for too long, bottom edging a ball from Ben Mike on to his stumps, before Will Davis got one past Robbie White’s defensive bat to clip the off stump as a morning session slightly shortened by rain added only 68 runs for three wickets lost, although the lead at lunch was already 284.
Callum Parkinson did not find the assistance for his left-arm spin that he might have expected from a dry third-day wicket until after tea but Wright’s impressive form continued when he returned after lunch.
He had an athletic catch from Ed Barnes at midwicket to thank for the dismissal of John Simpson for 17 after his first innings 95, but produced another ball that came back off the pitch to have Martin Andersson lbw.
Mike picked up a second scalp when Peter Handscomb was drawn into chasing a wide ball and feathered a catch behind before Wright brought up his five as Tom Helm, defending, was bowled via an inside edge.
Four wickets for 79 represented another satisfactory session for Leicestershire, but another chance was squandered when Luke Hollman edged between a static ‘keeper and first slip on 15 and by tea Middlesex were 363 ahead, adding another 14 in the final session before Parkinson picked up his sole wicket by trapping Bamber leg before and Wright added his sixth when Hollman edged low to second slip for 26.
Seamer Martin Andersson returned his best first-class figures for Middlesex as his side took a firm upper hand on day two of the basement battle in Group Two of the LV=Insurance County Championship.
The 24-year-old right-armer, part of a Middlesex bowling attack with an average of 23, took four for 27 as Leicestershire were bowled out for 136 in reply to 295 by the visitors, for whom wicketkeeper John Simpson finished on 95 not out.
Ethan Bamber, the 22-year-old quick, claimed three for 36 with Callum Parkinson and Lewis Hill top scoring for Leicestershire with 41 and 39 respectively.
After captain Peter Handscomb declined to enforce the follow-on, Middlesex stretched their lead to 216 for the solitary loss of opener Sam Robson, leg before to Chris Wright.
Leicestershire were quickly in trouble as the 40 minutes they had to bat before lunch saw their first three wickets fall for 17.
Bamber produced a fine delivery to remove Hassan Azad, who nicked to third slip without scoring, while Tom Helm found some extra bounce to have Colin Ackermann taken above his head by Sam Robson at second slip off the shoulder of the bat.
In between, Australian Test opener Marcus Harris was lbw for three, offering no shot when plumb in front.
Hill and Sam Evans tried to rebuild after lunch but Andersson had Leicestershire rocking again with a burst of three wickets in six balls.
He had Sam Evans caught behind down the leg side, while Harry Swindells and Ben Mike fell leg before to consecutive swinging balls.
Hill and Parkinson added 44 for the seventh wicket before Andersson beat the former’s defensive bat to clip off stump and register his fourth success, threatening to beat his four for 25 on loan with Derbyshire in 2018 as his best figures.
Parkinson battled for just shy of two hours for his 41 before succumbing leg before to the returning Bamber.
Wright was the fifth man dismissed lbw in the innings as Bamber claimed his third success before Luke Hollman, the 20-year-old leg spinner, got in on the act by bowling Ed Barnes, his second first-class wicket in his third appearance.
Earlier, as Middlesex resumed on 260 for seven, Ben Mike, who did not bowl on the first day, checked their hopes of a third batting point m with two for eight from seven overs, dismissing Tom Helm and Ethan Bamber, both caught behind.
Thilam Walallawita hit Chris Wright over midwicket for four but then lost his off stump, leaving Simpson stranded five short of his ton.
A seventh-wicket partnership of 90 between John Simpson and 20-year-old Luke Hollman rescued Middlesex on the opening day of their LV=Insurance County Championship match at Leicester.
Left-arm spinner Callum Parkinson took three for 76 as Middlesex stumbled to 132 for six in the afternoon session, having looked comfortable at 73 for one at lunch.
But wicketkeeper Simpson fought back with his second half-century of the season and found good support from Hollman, a leg-spinning all-rounder playing in only his third first-class match, whose 32 is his best score so far.
Simpson was still there on 73 as Middlesex closed on 260 for seven, which may be a competitive total on a pitch expected to offer more help to the spinners as the match progresses.
A further worry for Leicestershire is an injury to opener Hassan Azad, who had to leave the field after taking a blow on the hand fielding at short leg.
Having chosen to bat first, Middlesex reached lunch on 73 for the loss of just Sam Robson, who was leg before to a flighted delivery from Callum Parkinson, the left-arm spinner.
But they slipped from 76 for one to 132 for six after lunch.
Will Davis, impressive in his first appearance since a pre-season ankle injury, dismissed the in-form Nick Gubbins, who was leg before trying to work a full-length ball from the right-arm seamer.
He followed up by having Stevie Eskinazi caught low down at second slip for 38, a disappointment for the out-of-favour batsman, recalled to the line-up for the first time in six matches a week after announcing he was looking for a loan move away from Middlesex.
The pattern of Middlesex batters failing to build on decent starts when Peter Handscomb was lbw on the back foot to Ed Barnes, who like Davis bowled with good control.
Then came two wickets in consecutive balls from Parkinson, whohad Robbie White caught at slip before defeating Martin Anderson with one that struck him on the back pad.
However, Simpson and Hollman frustrated the home side in the final session, Simpson passing fifty for the second match in a row, reaching the milestone from 103 balls with eight fours.
Hollman, tall and strongly built, batted with assurance for his 32 as he and Simpson secured a batting bonus point that had looked unlikely earlier, before Barnes, bowling with the second new ball, managed to get one past his defence and clip off stump, but Leicestershire were unable to make further inroads.
Watch the action from a remarkable fourth day at Grace Road, where Leicestershire chased down 378 to secure an incredible victory.
Captain Peter Handscomb speaks to BBC London's Kevin Hand after a disappointing result at Grace Road as Leicestershire reach the target of 378 to win the County Championship clash
Match Reports are provided by the ECB Reporters Network
Watch the action from day three at Grace Road, where Leicestershire fought back, to keep themselves in the game.
Stephen Eskinazi joins BBC London's Kevin Hand after close of play on day three after top scoring in Middlesex's second innings with 46
Watch the action from day two in Leicester, where Middlesex took control of the game, to end the day 216 runs in front.
Stuart Law joins BBC London's Kevin Hand at stumps as Middlesex close day two in a commanding position
Watch the action from the opening day at Grace Road, where an unbeaten 73 from John Simpson helped Middlesex post 260 for 7
John Simpson speaks to BBC London's Kevin Hand after finishing day one unbeaten on 73
Head Coach Stuart Law has named a squad of fifteen for this week's clash against Leicestershire in round eight of the LV= Insurance County Championship