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over 5 years ago | Matches


A five-wicket victory saw Middlesex wrap up the Division Two title and earn promotion back into the top flight of the County Championship, having spent five years in the lower tier.

With Middlesex playing Leicestershire at Grace Road this week, it seems only fitting then that we look back upon that last encounter as this week’s featured ‘Memory Lane’ article!

Middlesex went to Leicestershire sat on top of the Division Two table, needing twelve points to secure promotion from their final match of the season, with both Surrey and Northamptonshire breathing down their necks. One thing was clear - a Middlesex victory at Grace Road, irrespective of how results panned out at the Oval and Wantage Road would see Middlesex crowned Champions.

Middlesex skipper Chris Rogers won the toss and immediately backed his bowlers, putting the hosts in to bat.

A dream start for seamers Tim Murtagh and Corey Collymore saw Leicestershire three down after the opening two overs of the game with just 4 runs on the board!

Leicestershire fought back, with former Middlesex Second Eleven player Ned Eckersley and Greg Smith leading the charge. Smith brought up a fine century off 186 balls, whilst Eckersley hit a personal best 106, bringing his maiden first-class century up off 177 balls.

At the end of the opening day Middlesex had earned three of the twelve points they needed, with Murtagh, Collymore and Gareth Berg taking three wickets apiece, as Leicestershire were bowled out for 319 off the final ball of the day.

Day two saw Middlesex take a giant leap towards securing that promotion when picking up maximum batting points - finishing the day on 401 for 8.

A 75-run opening partnership from Andrew Strauss and Sam Robson laid the foundation for that total, before a fine 97 from Dawid Malan, a clinical 55 from John Simpson and a classy unbeaten 70 from Berg put Middlesex in control, 82 runs ahead with two wickets still standing.

Elsewhere the pressure was being piled on by the closing pack, where at Wantage Road Northamptonshire were nearing victory against Gloucestershire and at the Oval Surrey were in good shape against Derbyshire.

Returning on day three Berg continued to build and reached a sublime hundred off just 122 balls, with Murtagh for company, who himself had passed a well-earned and patient 50.

Berg surpassed his previous first-class highest score and finished unbeaten on 130, with him and Murtagh adding 172 for the ninth wicket to set a new ninth wicket partnership record for the club, beating the previous record set by the great Patsy Hendren and Jack Durston in 1927 – all this had seemingly put Middlesex out of sight with a first innings lead of 183!

By the end of the third day a few nerves were jangling as Leicestershire proved that they were far from done, batting with confidence to wipe out the deficit and even build a narrow lead of their own to take into the final day of the season! They finished the day on 222 for 7, leading by 39 runs, with three wickets still standing.

Meanwhile at the Oval Surrey had won by an innings and 126 runs to go to the top of the table, and Northants had beaten Gloucestershire by nine wickets to go second, meaning that Middlesex needed to secure a draw or better to achieve promotion.

Trailing by 39 runs, Middlesex were looking for quick wickets on the final day, although they had to be patient to get them! Eckersley wasn’t going quietly and offered plenty of resistance as he hit his second half-century of the game. Tail-enders Jigar Naik and Nathan Buck added some useful late runs for Leicestershire, adding plenty of frustration for Middlesex, as the lead grew, and 25 overs were used up! The hosts were eventually bowled out for 306 to leave Middlesex a victory target of 124.

Again it was Strauss and Robson who opened up for Middlesex, and the pair proceeded to clear almost half of the deficit, adding 57 for the first wicket before Robson fell to Naik.

What followed got the nerves really jangling, as the loss of four wickets for just 23 runs saw Middlesex collapse to 90 for 5 as Strauss, Malan, Dalrymple and Rogers all departed in the space of just nine overs.

With just 34 runs needed, with Berg and Simpson at the crease, their elected method of knocking off the remaining runs was to attack, in an attempt to get over the line as quickly as possible.

With the shackles removed Simpson hit six boundaries in a fine unbeaten 27 off 21 balls, whilst Berg at the other end smashed an unbeaten 19 off just 16 balls, including the three winnings boundaries to take Middlesex to victory and start the celebrations.

A five wicket victory earned Middlesex took a maximum of 24 points from the game to finish 13 points ahead of Surrey, with Northants missing out on promotion by a solitary point.

Middlesex will be looking for a similar outcome at Grace Road this week, as whilst the circumstances are very different this time round, another win for the Seaxes is looking equally as important as it was seven years ago!

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