Close, day two: Lancashire 392, Middlesex 155-5
Lancashire 5pts, Middlesex 3pts
Middlesex remain behind after Lancashire’s newest signing Ajmal Shazhad took two of five wickets on day two.
The England fringe player, who recently left Yorkshire in controversial circumstances to sign for their rival county, dismissed Joe Denly and fellow England batsman Eoin Morgan to confine the visitors to 155-5 at stumps.
Middlesex were buoyed in the morning after finally dismissing Ashwell Prince for 144 and Ollie Rayner took three wickets through the morning and early afternoon.
But both he and Tim Murtagh could not stop Lancashire reaching the cusp of 400 runs.
And then Glen Chapple, Kyle Hogg and Simon Kerrigan added to Shahzad’s brace to keep the hosts ahead by 237 runs at close.
South African international Prince resumed the morning on an unbeaten century after batting Lancashire to 276-4 from day one, with Luke Proctor his partner on 15.
And Prince batted for another 17 overs in the morning, hitting three further boundaries before Middlesex could breathe a sigh of relief at his departure.
It was Gareth Berg who dismissed him as his first wicket of the day, when he forced the left-hander to loft to Denly at mid-wicket.
Rayner took his other pair in quick succession, disposing of Proctor (39) and then Shahzad (three) within the next seven overs, with Lancashire on 337-7.
A lower order collapse looked imminent but wicketkeeper-batsman Gareth Cross took a quick-fire 41 partenership with Chapple (18) that took the hosts towards their fourth century.
Middlesex were 1-1 when captain Chris Rogers fell in the second over and then Sam Dobson’s (19) dismissal in the 11th put the vistors down 37-2.
And that became a sorry 79-4 when Shahzad joined the attack and nullified two of Middlesex’s most productive batsmen, Denly (32) and Morgan (33).
But Dawid Malan (24), Neil Dexter (33 not out) and John Simpson (28 not out) added a further 76 between them before the end of the day.
Middlesex will hope Dexter and Simpson can continue their partnership through day three and get closer to Lancashire’s lead.