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t Taylor and Dan Worrall took five wicket each to bowl Gloucestershire to a 164-run win over Middlesex at Cheltenham to keep them on course for a top two finish in Group Two of the LV= Insurance Championship. Victory appeared a formality when Middlesex were set a target of 420 in a day and a half but Stevie Eskinazi ensured there would be no second surrender with a marathon 102 from 300 balls.
Daryl Mitchell joined the fight with 73 from 247 deliveries as the visitors went over 100 overs only losing one wicket. But when Mitchell fell, Middlesex suffered a second collapse of the match, this time six for 14 in nine overs, to be bowled out for 255. Gloucestershire move second in Group Two, five points points behind Somerset and six clear of Hampshire who come to the College on Sunday.
Gloucestershire no doubt would have told themselves to remain patient but surely they would not have envisaged just how hard victory would have to be earned. Despite the giant target, Middlesex, in theory, had enough time to win they game but they settled upon merely trying to avoid a seventh defeat of the season. The scoring rate inched along at under two-an-over but for the first half of the final day, the spoiling tactics were working.
Eskinazi made just the third century by a Middlesex batsman this season, the seventh of his first-class career and first in the Championship since 2017. It came in a mighty 273 balls with a rare attacking stroke as his drove Dom Goodman through extra-cover for his tenth boundary.
But having thrown everything they had at him, Gloucestershire finally struck. A leg gully was positioned and Eskinazi flicked a full ball from Worrall to Ollie Price. The celebrations rivalled those at Wembley on Wednesday night such was the hosts’ relief. A full in-swinger from Taylor then pinned Mitchell lbw and Gloucestershire could see the victory line. Taylor struck next ball as Martin Andersson edged and James Bracey held a good low catch. Nathan Sowter survived the hat-trick but soon gloved a lifter to second slip.
The sixth five-wicket haul of his career was completed when a superb delivery that moved away was edged behind by Blake Cullen. Worrall ended it. Ethan Bamber turned into short leg’s hands before Robbie
Gloucestershire ended day three at Cheltenham on course for victory to keep their hopes of a top two finish in Group Two alive as Middlesex closed 97 for three chasing 420. But it could yet be a hard slog to finish the job as Stevie Eskinazi’s unbeaten 48 from 157 balls led resistance that saw only 45 runs come from the final 37 overs of the day.
Their hopes of Division One cricket in September were also boosted by Leicestershire’s draw with Somerset and Surrey’s epic bulwark to deny Hampshire. Gloucestershire added another 74 after rain had taken out the morning session and were bowled out for 272.
A romp then looked possible as Middlesex lost two wickets inside six overs. Josh de Caires, son of Michael Atherton, drove at Dan Worrall and edged to slip. Four and five was not a memorable debut. Taylor then pinned Sam Robson lbw back in his crease but replays suggested the ball pitched outside leg stump. But Stevie Eskinazi and captain Peter Handscomb began to pull up the drawbridge. They also lowered their arrows. Having reached 52 for two after 20 overs, the pair scored only four runs in the next 15 overs.
Worrall broke the resistance, nipping one back to have his fellow Australian Handscomb lbw for 14 from 95 deliveries but that was the only other success for the hosts. Gloucestershire resumed with a lead of 345 knowing one more partnership should put the game beyond their visitors. It was a heart-warming combination who provided it as Tom Price, 21 and playing his second match, and his 20-year-old brother Ollie, on debut, shared 64 for the seventh wicket. Ollie opened the day with a gorgeous cover drive off Blake Cullen and played another through mid-off in making 33 to add to his first-innings 31.
His brother Tom finished unbeaten on 35. He drove Ethan Bamber over his head for four, twice flicked him smartly through midwicket, steered four more to third man and pulled Cullen for a fifth four. The pair must have been having the time of their lives before Ollie hooked at Tim Murtagh and gloved a catch behind. Matt Taylor swung at Daryl Mitchell and was bowled for naught before Worrall tried to crash him through the covers and edged behind. Dom Goodman then skied Murtagh to mid-on to end the innings.
Middlesex have endured some tough days this season but their collapse of eight for 25 on day two at Cheltenham must rank as the most desperate as Gloucestershire took a lead of 345.
Bottom of Group Two with only one win and a litany of batting failures so far this season, they were steady at 76 for two replying to 248 just before lunch.
But in 10.2 overs they tumbled wildly like cheese rollers down Cooper’s Hill to be bowled out just 101 before Gloucestershire went to the close 198 for six in their second innings, with James Bracey making 88.
Gloucestershire were without David Payne who was called up to England’s ODI squad to play Pakistan but it mattered not as Matt Taylor claimed four for 19 - his best return of the season - and 21-year-old Tom Price three for 29 in just his second first-class match.
Payne’s replacement, Dom Goodman, took a wicket with his fourth delivery, a fortunate one as Stevie Eskinazi was strangled down the leg side, but Middlesex were actually enjoying one of their better starts to an innings this season when Dan Worrall struck twice in two balls before lunch.
He got one to nip back and flick Sam Robson’s bails for a well-made 37 before Daryl Mitchell was caught on the crease and palpably lbw. Peter Handscomb made just his fifth score over 20 this season but, on 21, he pushed at one from Taylor that left him a little and edged behind. Middlesex wicketkeeper John Simpson was also called up by England but his replacement Robbie White made just 5, which proved the top score of anyone batting lower than number four.
Price had Martin Andersson caught at slip driving far too loosely and took out Blake Cullen and Ethan Bamber lbw to finish the innings off. With a huge lead of 147, Miles Hammond followed a first-innings 75 with 46 before Bracey continued his rehabilitation to ram home the advantage. He drove Tim Murtagh smartly through midwicket on his way to a 95-ball half-century but he drove Mitchell to backward point just before bad light curtailed the day.
Before that, Jack Taylor made a sprightly 40 in 29 balls. He cut and drove Nathan Sowter’s legspin for four before hoisting him over long-off for six. He then drove Murtagh for three fours in an over at the start of his second spell.
Miles Hammond’s 75 led Gloucestershire’s progress on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival but the home side collapsed after tea to be bowled out for 248 against Middlesex as the LV= Insurance Championship returned.
Hammond struck nine fours and two sixes in passing fifty for the third game running and helped his side into a strong position at 153 for two. But a batting line up that didn’t offer much first-class pedigree tumbled away and Middlesex were left content having won the toss. Gloucestershire were without captain Chris Dent, with a broken finger, and Ryan Higgins, whose partner gave birth on Monday morning.
There would have been great worry among supporters with their side inserted and coming off the back of 11 T20s. But mid-afternoon they were very well placed. Hammond filled in for James Bracey up the order in the previous two Championship matches with success and here again played well. There was still a little T20 in his strokes. A ball of just back of a length was flat-batted through mid-off and a pull taken over midwicket from well outside off among his 137-ball fifty. He nicked a decent delivery from Ethan Bamber to first slip.
But there was far too much T20 in Glenn Phillips’ dismissal as he whacked Blake Cullen to mid-off for 13. Forgivable in the shortest form, criminal in the longest. Bracey earlier returned with a somewhat cathartic 38 after his torturous month with England and then no runs and missed chances in the Blast.
He played two straight drives off Daryl Mitchell - the New Zealander making his Middlesex debut - that suggested he is back in decent order but flicked at one sent across him by Cullen and edged behind in the fifth over after lunch. Tom Lace also fell to a dart outside off. It was a total waste when well set on 31 and there was no change-of-format excuse for him.
When Jack Taylor shouldered arms to Mitchell and was lbw for five, Gloucestershire were 187 for six but Ollie Price, making his county debut, made a composed 31 with five fours to ensure a batting point before he squared up and bowled by Bamber with the second new ball.
Price was playing alongside his older brother Tom with another pair of siblings - Jack and Matt Taylor also in the XI.
Watch the action from Middlesex latest Vitality Blast clash, where Gloucestershire secured a ten run victory in Cheltenham
Assistant Coach Nic Pothas gives his assessment on today's defeat to Gloucestershire in the Blast and reflects on a disappointing campaign.
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Middlesex Head Coach Stuart Law has named a thirteen man squad for tomorrow afternoon's Vitality Blast clash against Gloucestershire
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