Cricket Eskinazi leads the resistance as Gloucestershire eye victory at Cheltenham
GLOUCESTERSHIRE ended day three at Cheltenham on course for victory to keep their hopes of a top-two finish in Group Two alive as Middlesex closed on 97-3 chasing 420.
But it could yet be a hard slog to finish the job as Stevie Eskinazi’s unbeaten 48 from 157 balls led resistance which saw only 45 runs come from the final 37 overs of the day.
Their hopes of Division One cricket in September were also boosted by Leicestershire’s draw with Somerset and Surrey’s epic bulwark to deny Hampshire.
Gloucestershire added another 74 after rain had taken out the morning session and were bowled out for 272.
A romp then looked possible as Middlesex lost two wickets inside six overs. Josh de Caires, son of
Michael Atherton, drove at Dan Worrall and edged to slip. Four and five was not a memorable debut.
Taylor then had Sam Robson lbw back in his crease but replays suggested the ball pitched outside leg stump.
Eskinazi and captain Peter Handscomb began to pull up the drawbridge. They also lowered their arrows. Having reached 52-2 after 20 overs, the pair scored only four runs in the next 15 overs.
Worrall broke the resistance, nipping one back to have his fellow Australian Handscomb lbw for 14 from 95 deliveries but that was the only other success for the hosts.
Gloucestershire resumed with a lead of 345 knowing one more partnership should put the game beyond their visitors.
It was a heartwarming combination who provided it as Tom Price, 21 and playing his second match, and his 20-year-old brother Ollie, on debut, shared 64 for the seventh wicket. Ollie opened the day with a gorgeous cover drive off Blake Cullen and played another through mid-off in making 33 to add to his first-innings 31. His brother Tom finished unbeaten on 35. He drove Ethan Bamber over his head for four, twice flicked him smartly through midwicket, steered four more to third man and pulled Cullen for a fifth four. The pair must have been having the time of their lives before Ollie hooked at Tim Murtagh and gloved a catch behind.
Matt Taylor swung at Daryl Mitchell and was bowled, before Worrall tried to crash him through the covers and edged behind. Dom Goodman then skied Murtagh to mid-on.