Gloucestershire fight to set up tight finish
Gloucestershire 358 and 218 for 5 v Middlesex 406
Ian Cockbain made a career-best 72 as Gloucestershire kept themselves in with a chance of stopping Division Two leaders Middlesex registering a fourth successive win. The game in Bristol looks set for an intriguing finish after Gloucestershire reached 218 for 5 at stumps on the third day and with an overall lead of 170.
Cockbain, the 23-year-old son of the former Lancashire batsman with the same name, hit nine fours and a six, which included four overthrows, to hold the Gloucestershire top order together. But the home side were still in trouble at 128 for 5 before first-innings centurion Chris Taylor (60 not out), who is batting with a runner because of a swollen knee, and Will Gidman (25 not out) put together an unbroken stand of 90
However, Gloucestershire are effectively six wickets down after opener Hamish Marshall suffered a fractured thumb on his right hand after being hit by a Toby Roland-Jones delivery.
After starting the day on 296 for 4, Middlesex added 110 runs for the last six wickets in 24.4 overs. Much of that was down to Sussex loanee Ollie Rayner, whose 62-ball innings of 54 contained eight fours, predominantly straight or cover driven.
Rayner and Tim Murtagh revived the innings with a ninth-wicket stand of 52 after Gloucestershire had taken four wickets in seven overs with the second new ball. Nightwatchman Roland-Jones was first to go when he played outside a Liam Norwell delivery and was bowled.
Neil Dexter, who had added 16 to his overnight 56, left a ball from Lewis and had his off stump uprooted. Then Lewis had Gareth Berg and John Simpson caught at the wicket by Jon Batty. Murtagh's solid support for Rayner ended just before lunch when he clipped Marshall to Alex Gidman at short midwicket, and the innings was wrapped up four balls after the interval when Rayner was lbw to Lewis.
In Gloucestershire's second innings, Marshall took successive fours off Corey Collymore in the opening over. However, the former New Zealand batsman was hit on his right hand by a Roland-Jones delivery in the next over and retired hurt shortly afterwards.
A flurry of boundaries from Cockbain enabled Gloucestershire to reach 50 inside 11 overs, but Middlesex soon regained the initiative. Richard Coughtrie was caught at gully off Berg for eight, New Zealand batsman Kane Williamson fell leg before to Murtagh for a duck and Alex Gidman, on 10, edged Murtagh to wicket-keeper Simpson.
Cockbain progressed to a 52-ball half-century and continued to bat fluently until he got caught on the crease and was lbw to Roland-Jones off the fifth ball after tea. It became 128 for 5 when Batty was lbw on the back foot to Berg for 20, but Gloucestershire were given renewed hope by Taylor and Will Gidman.
Taylor took three legside boundaries off an over from Berg and also hit Rayner for six over wide long-on on his way to a 68-ball half-century. Gidman provided excellent support after being dropped on one by Rayner at second slip off Roland-Jones