Middlesex on the brink of promotion

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Tim Murtagh

Tim Murtagh impressed with ball and bat today as Middlesex closed on victory and, subsequently, promotion by dominating against Leicestershire

Middlesex were in sight of victory and promotion at the end of the third day of their LV= County Championship match against Leicestershire at Grace Road.

Gareth Berg hit a career-best unbeaten 130 as Middlesex made 502 to secure a first-innings lead of 183. Then their bowlers took over, leaving Leicestershire tottering on 222 for seven by the close.

Tim Murtagh dismissed both openers in his first two overs before off-spinner Ollie Rayner took 3-32 as the home side crumbled in the evening session despite half-centuries from Greg Smith and James Taylor.

Middlesex now look set to clinch the victory that would send them up as Division Two champions.

They began the day at 401 for eight and added another 101 in 19 overs with Berg and Murtagh sharing a record ninth-wicket partnership of 172. It beat the previous best of 160 set by Patsy Hendren and Jack Durston against Essex at Leyton in 1927.

The runs came quickly against some erratic Leicestershire bowling with Berg reaching the second century of his career from 122 balls with three sixes and 11 fours.

Murtagh also enjoyed himself, cracking nine boundaries on the way to his first half-century of the season.

Murtagh finally succumbed, edging a delivery from Wayne White that provided wicketkeeper Ned Eckersley with his sixth catch of the innings, one short of the record held by Neil Burns against Somerset 10 years ago.

White then had Corey Collymore lbw to finish with 3-54, leaving Berg unbeaten on 130 that included five sixes and 13 fours.

With a lead of 183, Middlesex soon made inroads into Leicestershire's second innings with Matt Boyce and Will Jones back in the pavilion in less than three overs for the second time in the match.

After striking two crisp fours in Murtagh's first over, Boyce was out lbw to its final delivery.

Jones, out for a duck in the first innings, managed two before he too was trapped lbw by Murtagh, leaving Leicestershire at 11 for two.

But a battling third-wicket stand of 121 in 34 overs between Smith and Taylor put the brake on Middlesex's progress.

The two of them showed plenty of determination and concentration with Smith reaching his second half-century of the game with a glorious off-driven boundary against Steven Crook.

Taylor went to his fifty off 89 balls with six boundaries and the pair of them finally began to give Leicestershire some hope of staging a fight back.

But Smith was then trapped lbw by a quicker delivery from Jamie Dalrymple for 58 and, although Taylor continued to look in good form, wickets began falling at the other end.

Having reached 80, Taylor edged a short-pitch delivery from Crook through to the wicketkeeper and Rayner bagged the wickets of Jacques du Toit, White and Rob Taylor as the home side lost four wickets for 35 runs in the final session.

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