County Championship: Stevie Eskinazi century puts Middlesex on top against Worcestershire

Stevie Eskinazi hit 18 fours to help Middlesex build a strong lead at Worcester
Stevie Eskinazi hit 18 fours to help Middlesex build a strong lead at Worcester
LV= County Championship Division Two, New Road, Worcester (day three)
Worcestershire 225: D’Oliveira 44; Roland-Jones 4-50, Higgins 3-52
Middlesex 509: Eskinazi 115, Malan 93, Simpson 92, Roland-Jones 55*
Middlesex (8 pts) lead Worcestershire (3 pts) by 284 runs
Match scorecard

Middlesex are on the verge of clinching promotion to Division One of the County Championship after century-maker Stevie Eskinazi, John Simpson and Pieter Malan played major roles in securing maximum batting points against Worcestershire at New Road.

A boundary by Eskinazi off Ed Barnard ensured the 400-run mark was achieved with 10 balls to spare of the 110 overs permitted for bonus points.

The efforts of the trio earned their side a first-innings lead of 284 runs, with Simpson becoming the first Middlesex wicketkeeper-batter to complete 1,000 first-class runs in a season since Keith Brown in 1991.

With only a draw required to secure a top-two spot, it will require something of extraordinary proportions on the final day to prevent the champagne corks from popping on Thursday afternoon.

Simpson joined Mark Stoneman from earlier in the game in achieving four figures this summer with Max Holden (749) and Sam Robson (708) also making significant contributions with the bat.

On the bowling front, Toby Roland-Jones has been a magnificent leader of the attack at the age of 34 with his season’s best haul of 67 wickets and with scope to add to the total on the final day of the season.

Tim Murtagh (30), Tom Helm (29) and Ethan Bamber (25) have also provided invaluable support.

After a mid-season wobble of five games without a win, Middlesex recaptured the successful formula in four-day cricket in defeating Glamorgan and Leicestershire, and dominating the opening three days at New Road.

For Worcestershire, the highlight of the day was Gareth Roderick’s six catches, equalling the most in an innings by one of their players in Championship cricket.

But, apart from Dillon Pennington, whose two wickets took his tally for the season to 44, their bowlers were unable to find a sufficiently consistent line and length to apply pressure.

Middlesex resumed on 146-2 and added only nine runs before Josh Tongue made the first breakthrough as Holden (44) nibbled at a ball that left him and wicketkeeper Roderick held on to a low catch.

There was a considerable amount of playing and missing in the opening half-hour and a delay as the transfers on Eskinazi’s bat were leaving marks on the ball.

But the visitors gradually began to flourish with Malan’s straight drive for four off Barnard one of the most eye-catching strokes as the first batting point was secured in the 62nd over.

Malan had scored 141 and 77 not out for Warwickshire in a Championship match on the same ground last summer and looked well set for another century.

But on 93 there was little he could do about a ball of extra bounce from Matthew Waite, which cut back into him and he nicked through to Roderick.

His excellent 182-ball knock contained one six and 17 fours.

Simpson needed 53 more runs to complete 1,000 in a campaign for the first time and batted with typically aggressive intent from the start.

He and Eskinazi eased Middlesex past the Worcestershire total and batting began to look slightly easier.

Their half-century stand occupied only 11 overs and Worcestershire club captain, Brett D’Oliveira, brought himself into the attack for the first spin of the match.

The second new ball was taken at 275-4 but runs continued to flow and Eskinazi pulled Tongue for his 10th boundary to complete a 104-ball half-century.

Simpson went to the same mark with a four to third man, also off Tongue, and a cover drive off the same bowler took him to the 1,000 mark in the campaign.

He then planted Waite over mid-wicket for six and looked set for a fourth hundred of the season but on 92 he was bowled behind his legs by Ben Gibbon.

Simpson struck one six and 13 fours in his 121-ball innings and added 157 in 37 overs with Eskinazi.

Eskinazi, the leading scorer last month in the Royal London Cup with 658 at an average of 94.00, was not to be denied and cut Gibbon for two to complete a 179-ball hundred with 16 fours.

Roderick held on to a fine catch running back from behind the wicket to dismiss Ryan Higgins from the last ball before tea by Barnard.

The all-important 400 milestone was reached when Eskinazi flicked Barnard to fine leg.

Luke Hollman (11) gave Roderick another scalp off Waite and then catch number six for the wicketkeeper, away to his left, finally accounted for Eskinazi on 115 on Pennington’s return to the attack.

Jake Libby had a rare bowl and dismissed Bamber and Murtagh but Roland-Jones enjoyed himself with some late hitting in his 58-ball 50 as he brought up the 500.

Worcestershire vice-captain Jake Libby:

“I don’t think we envisaged it going that way at the start of play. There were periods when we didn’t bowl well enough and would acknowledge that.

“But you’ve got to hold your hands up to Middlesex and the way they batted today, particularly Pieter Malan, John Simpson and Steve Eskinazi.

“It was a top innings from Eskinazi on that pitch. It was still doing a lot. It has got better to bat on but it was still doing a lot so fair play to them really.

“There are a lot of factors involved. We didn’t well enough in periods, we also beat the bat a lot, it has got easier. It is not the day we would have liked but we’ve still got tomorrow to try and turn that around. We’ve got to bat really well to bat the whole day to get the draw.”

Middlesex centurion Steve Eskinazi:

“A phenomenal day’s cricket, probably up there with the best in my career given the context of how important this first innings was for promotion hopes.

“It’s been an angsty last two or three weeks, looking at different permutations, different results, but we knew that we had things in our own hands. We knew if we played well, we would be fine and we managed to do that, and more.

“What the last four or five years has shown me is that for a side to go down. It’s not like it’s easy to bounce straight back up. The job is not done just yet. But a lot of people can take a lot of credit for the way we’ve played this year.

“You’ve got to beat good teams in their home conditions, good overseas players and a lot of good county cricketers.”

Report supplied by the ECB Reporters’ Network.

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