Simpson and Holden give Middlesex hope against Surrey


Middlesex 179-5

Surrey 433 all out

John Simpson and Max Holden shared a century stand to give Middlesex hope of saving the follow-on against reigning champions Surrey on day two at Lord’s.

The hosts, with only two batting bonus points all season were in dire straits at 53-4 in response to the visitors’ 433 all out, but former England U19 Holden 55 and redoubtable wicket-keeper Simpson added 116 for the fifth wicket.

Holden fell shortly before the close, but a defiant Simpson (pictured) will take guard on day three 55 not out with Middlesex 179-5, Sean Abbot taking two of the wickets.

Earlier Surrey passed 400 with day one centurion Jamie Smith finishing on 138 and Jordan Clark 78, Tom Helm completing a career-best 6-110 for the hosts.

Stand-in skipper Mark Stoneman briefly suggested a positive response to Surrey’s substantial first innings total, creaming two early off drives through the covers, but it proved a false dawn as with only 11 against his name he feathered a good one from Clark through to wicketkeeper Ben Foakes.

It would be the ‘Brown Hats’ only success for some while, but a combination of tight seam bowling and a lack of intent from Pieter Malan and Sam Robson – the latter for some reason batting at three – meant the hosts crawled along at two runs per over.

Perhaps that explains the rash cross-bat swish by South African Malan to an innocuous ball from Jamie Overton which took the under-edge, giving Foakes a second comfortable catch.

As too often this season, the departure of one Middlesex batter led to three falling for the addition of 10 runs in 39 balls.

Robson, a centurion last week at Merchant Taylors’ was undone by one from Sean Abbott which came back into him up the slope and went off the inside edge onto the stumps via the thigh pad.

A torturous period of the afternoon for the hosts concluded with Jack Davies, in the side for the injured Stephen Eskinazi, taking 18 balls to get off the mark only to then fence at one from Tom Lawes, sending it into the hands of Dom Sibley at slip.

The bell summoning the players back after tea sounded like a death knell for the beleaguered home side, but to their credit Holden and Simpson showed some intestinal fortitude.

Holden, displayed some of the T20 form which earned a wildcard pick from the Manchester Originals for the upcoming Hundred, driving well off front and back foot, while Simpson played one delightful cut and acquired an all run four courtesy of an overthrow.

Overton tried some chin music ala England, but Holden’s sixth four through third man took him to his second championship half century of the season from 93 balls before Simpson too found the fence to raise the century stand.

Simpson’s own half century came in the grand manner with a six into the Mound Stand, but just as it looked as if Middlesex would reach the sanctity of stumps without further loss, Abbott found the edge of Holden’s bat and a diving Sibley did the rest.

Earlier, Surrey resumed on 312-5, and save for a six over square leg by Clark off Ryan Higgins, made steady, unspectacular progress before first day century maker Smith was castled by Helm from one which came back through the gate.

Clark eased his way to a 91-ball 50 though he was later unsettled, not to say frustrated by Ethan Bamber beating him outside the off stump with five successive deliveries. The young seamer, who had somehow gone wicketless on day one finally got reward when Abbott hoisted him into the hands of Malan at deep square.

Clark’s fine effort ended when Tim Murtagh got one to bounce and take the edge which flew to Robson at slip and while a few lusty blows from Overton delayed the lunch interval, Helm cleaned up the tail for his first ever six-for in championship cricket.