Middlesex close in but Taylor shows fight
Leicestershire 193 and 308 for 7 v Middlesex 496 for 2 dec
It is understandable that Leicestershire haven't been entirely focussed since their Twenty20 triumph on Saturday, but after five days the foggy post-celebration haze lifted a little at Lord's as they showed some fight in the follow-on against Middlesex. However, it won't be enough to prevent their ninth defeat of the season while, in turn, a victory will send the home side momentarily top of the Division Two table.
Even as summer turns to autumn, the same rules apply at Lord's. If the sun is out, life is a lot tougher for the bowlers. England have previously found to their cost that asking a side to follow-on here can be the path to some hard toil and Middlesex's bowlers had to earn their rewards - although that isn't a bad thing because often this season Division Two wickets have fallen too easily.
Middlesex only gained two breakthroughs up to tea, as Greg Smith hit 84, his first Championship fifty of the season, but inroads came during the final session including James Taylor for a determined 85. He faced 164 balls, in front of England selector James Whitaker, before gloving Tim Murtagh, armed with the second new ball, down the leg side although Middlesex were convinced they'd got him caught behind in single figures.
Taylor's display will help ease some of the frustrations of being left out of England's Twenty20 and ODI squads having made his international debut against Ireland last week. Unlike in Dublin, where he fell to a top-edged pull, the shot was in good working order today . Overall, Taylor's numbers for the season are impressive but it hasn't been the most productive of summer's in the Championship for him so a strong finish would be timely.
Given he isn't in the current England squad it appears unlikely he will make the tour to India next month (unless another player is rested) and, based on the recent India Test matches, remains behind Ravi Bopara in the pecking order for the reserve batsmen. It may be that Taylor has to be content with another winter of development for the Lions, which would actually be more beneficial than a couple of tours carrying drinks with the senior side.
In the more immediate future he will need to decide where his county career lies. Leicestershire are going to offer him a new deal, but a move away - which would enable his current club to cash in - is still the likeliest option.
Someone who may feature with Taylor for the Lions before next season is Toby Roland-Jones. He he has yet to gain any representative honours, but has registered interest with his economical action and ability to plug away on a nagging length. He may have already advanced further if shin splints hadn't limited his season - this is just his sixth Championship game - but his spell post-tea was impressive.
He had Josh Cobb, one of the heroes of finals day, caught behind from a loose drive that was well taken by John Simpson diving forward then produced an excellent delivery which lifted from a length to remove Ned Eckersley. When Wayne White was trapped lbw to the second new ball and Taylor followed shortly afterwards a three-day finish was on the cards but Robert Taylor and Jigar Naik erased the deficit.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo