Smith and Eckersley prosper
Greg Smith and Ned Eckersley both hit centuries as Leicestershire recovered from a nightmare start to put the brakes on Middlesex's promotion charge in their LV= County Championship Division Two clash at Grace Road.
Leicestershire lost three wickets in the first two overs of the game but Smith and Eckersley helped the home side recover to 319 all out by the close of the first day.
Top-of-the-table Middlesex needed 12 points to clinch promotion when play began and they pocketed three of them with seamers Tim Murtagh, Corey Collymore and Gareth Berg claiming three wickets apiece.
Wicketkeeper Eckersley, looking to earn himself a contract with Leicestershire, recorded his maiden first-class century while Smith posted the third championship ton of his career.
The two of them shared a fifth-wicket partnership of 131 to keep the Middlesex attack at bay for 42 overs.
All this came before Middlesex made a flying start after winning the toss and putting Leicestershire in to bat in windy conditions on a pitch tinged with green.
It took the visitors just two overs to pick up their first bowling point as Leicestershire lost three wickets without adding to the four runs scored by Matt Boyce off the third ball of the morning from Murtagh.
Boyce then edged Murtagh's final delivery to second slip where Ollie Rayner took the catch, while Will Jones, on his championship debut, was trapped lbw by Collymore who followed that up by bowling James Taylor with the last ball of the over.
It left Leicestershire staring at another batting debacle, having been bowled out for 34 by Essex and 48 by Northants earlier in the season.
But between them Smith, Eckersley and Jacques Du Toit showed real determination to haul Leicestershire back from the brink.
Smith and Du Toit, who have both been struggling for runs this summer, began the fightback with a fourth-wicket stand of 84 in 22 overs. They rode their luck at times but punished anything loose to the extent that 52 out of 75 runs came in boundaries.
Du Toit's brisk knock of 42 was ended when he chased a wide delivery from Berg and was caught by Andrew Strauss at slip.
Eckersley,, 22, and Smith demonstrated great resolve and concentration to steer Leicestershire towards respectability.
Smith reached his fifty - only his second of the summer - off 96 balls with seven fours and the century stand came up in 34 overs.
Eckersley's half-century, which included four fours, came from 118 deliveries and the next landmark was Smith's hundred, arriving off 186 balls with a glorious cover drive that brought him his 12th four.
The two of them batted throughout the afternoon but in the second over after tea Smith flicked at a ball down leg side from Collymore and was caught behind for 108.
Eckersley continued to battle on even though wickets fell at the other end and he reached an excellent century that included 12 fours.
He was finally ninth out for 106 when bowled by Berg, who had Nathan Buck caught behind off the final ball of the day to leave both sides with three bonus points.