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Leicestershire 273 for 9 (Swindells 67, Scriven 65) trail Middlesex 297 (Simpson 92, Eskinazi 64, Higgins 53, Finan 5-58) by 24 runs
Leicestershire recovered from 66 for five to 273 for nine in reply to Middlesex's 297 on day two of their LV= Insurance County Championship match, a day when finishing places in Division Two looked a little less clear-cut than they had before the current, penultimate round of matches began.
With Nottinghamshire 27 points clear before play began on Tuesday, Middlesex were more concerned with winning the race for the second promotion spot but the Trent Bridge side's troubles at New Road may yet bring the title back into play if Tim Murtagh's team can conjure a win here.
Yet that might be less straightforward than it looked when they had winless Leicestershire seemingly on the ropes at lunch only for Harry Swindells (67) and Tom Scriven (65) to rescue the bottom-of-the-table team with a stand of 125 for the sixth wicket before a gutsy unbeaten 31 from Ed Barnes helped close the deficit to 24 runs.
The morning was dismal for Leicestershire, although it had started with a joyful moment after Michael Finan, their recently acquired new team-mate, took two wickets in his first over to record his maiden five-wicket haul in only his third first-class match.
In claiming figures of five for 58, the 26-year-old left-arm quick finished off the Middlesex tail as the promotion-chasers were bowled out for three runs short of what might be an important third batting point.
Leicestershire raised a few eyebrows when they handed Finan a two-year contract before seeing him play in a senior match but he is already developing stamina and control to go with his pace and looked a threat in each of his 18 overs here. He led his team-mates off the field, wearing a broad smile as he held the ball aloft.
By lunch, though, the atmosphere in the home dressing room would have been markedly different. The Middlesex total, built around John Simpson's patient 92 on day one, was already looking formidable as Leicestershire slumped to five down.
With Hassan Azad and Rishi Patel left out for lack of form and leading scorer Wiaan Mulder back in South Africa, the 18-year-old rookie all-rounder Rehan Ahmed was required to bat at five. It looked a pretty thin line-up.
In the event, Ahmed made 26 off 56 balls before an injudicious swipe saw him bowled by fellow leg-spinner Luke Hollman's somewhat unthreatening opening delivery, yet he'd done better than the four before him.
Sol Budinger went in the second over for seven, cutting Toby Roland-Jones for three and then four before edging to second slip to a visible send-off from the Middlesex seamer. Louis Kimber was bowled off an inside edge by a swinging ball from the ageless Murtagh.
Sam Evans was bowled by a ball from Ethan Bamber that squared him up and nipped away to clip off stump. A full, straight one from Roland-Jones was too good for Colin Ackermann, who was leg before.
Yet by tea Leicestershire were in a much healthier position, having negotiated a 38-over middle session without losing another wicket as Scriven - in only his fourth first-class match - and Swindells guided them to 184 for five, with the threat of a follow-on avoided.
The sixth-wicket pair were impressively disciplined and narrow escapes were kept to a minimum. Scriven passed fifty for the first time in a first-class match for Leicestershire, reaching the milestone from 97 balls with a dab into the off side for one that also took the partnership to three figures. Swindells's half-century came off 133 balls just before tea.
Scriven fell seven balls into the final session for 65 as Murtagh found the edge. But Barnes helped add another 39 before Swindells was undone when Hollman made one rear up somehow and take the glove or shoulder of the bat to loop to second slip, where Steve Eskinazi plucked it out of the air one-handed.
By the time the new ball was taken, Finan had come and gone, caught at third slip off Roland-Jones, but skipper Callum Parkinson helped Barnes add another 28 for the ninth wicket before the latter was lbw to Bamber.
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