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    In a strategic move, Holden and Higgins have turned the tables on Gloucestershire
In a strategic move, Holden and Higgins have turned the tables on Gloucestershire
Max Holden arrived at the crease with Middlesex 9 for 2 in their second innings. Source: Getty Images

In a strategic move, Holden and Higgins have turned the tables on Gloucestershire

In a pivotal moment during the third day of the Vitality County Championship Second Division match between Middlesex and Gloucestershire at Bristol, Max Holden and Ryan Higgins spearheaded a comeback for Middlesex, turning the tide in their favour.

After conceding a first innings lead of 119 by bowling out their opponents for 322 from an overnight 271 for 6, the visitors slipped to nine for two in their second innings. However, Holden, Leus du Plooy (30) and Higgins launched a powerful fightback.

By the close of play, Middlesex had posted 262 for 3, with Holden and Higgins sharing an unbroken fourth-wicket stand of 183, and had a lead of 143. This means that all three results are possible on the final day. Holden had faced 157 balls, hitting 14 fours and a six, while Higgins smashed 13 fours and three sixes in facing 120 deliveries against his former club.

Middlesex needed to make the most of the second new ball, which became available when play began an hour late due to overnight rain, in order to restrict Gloucestershire's first innings lead on the hybrid pitch, which offered more bounce than usual at the Seat Unique Stadium. Ben Charlesworth, batting with Ollie Price as runner due to an ankle injury sustained on day one, executed two textbook straight drives off Tom Helm, while Zaman Akhter exploited the cover region.

The pair had extended their seventh-wicket stand to 71 when Akhter, on 27, attempted a drive that was too ambitious and was bowled by Helm, failing to connect with a good length delivery. This was Middlesex's only success in the hour before lunch, which was reached with Gloucestershire 314 for 7, 111 runs ahead.

The hosts were unable to gain ground at the start of the afternoon session due to Henry Brookes's three dismissals in an over. Charlesworth initiated the decline by attempting a significant hit, which resulted in a miscue and a catch by Holden at mid-off.

Marchant de Lange executed a trademark swing and also caught a ball off his third delivery, with wicketkeeper Jack Davies making the catch. Dom Goodman then edged a catch to the third slip, bringing an end to the innings.

Gloucestershire's seamers then made inroads on a much livelier pitch than they have been used to operating on in home games. Nathan Fernandes had made only five runs when he was caught at midwicket pulling a short ball from Goodman.

Mark Stoneman was dismissed for a duck, caught behind while driving at a wide delivery from Ajeet Singh Dale. Dale and du Plooy then faced a challenging period, with the latter edging his first ball from Singh Dale just short of the slip cordon.

In one over from Akhter, the Middlesex captain required medical attention after being struck on the hand and was then hit again by the first delivery after resuming his innings. In a further over from the same bowler, he survived three confident lbw appeals.

Holden demonstrated resilience by pulling de Lange for four and six, gradually dousing the Gloucestershire fire with the help of du Plooy. Having contributed to the total reaching 66 for 2 at tea, they only managed to add 13 more before du Plooy, who had previously drawn applause from the bowler when hitting de Lange back over his head for a huge six, was caught by Chris Dent at backward point, resulting in Goodman taking a second wicket.

Holden reached a valuable half-century in 83 balls, and together with Higgins, Middlesex gained the lead with seven wickets still in hand. The momentum shifted to the batting side, and when spin was introduced, the pair initially capitalised on singles off Graeme van Buuren to increase the scoring rate. They then proceeded to attack, with Higgins hitting Price for a six and a four in the same over.

The sun was shining and the bowling team was back to their usual selves as Higgins marked his return to a former stamping ground by reaching a chanceless fifty off 73 balls. On 62, he was dropped by van Buuren at mid-wicket off Price.

Holden reached his century off 151 balls, with 13 fours and a six, and Higgins followed suit to reach three figures with a pulled six off Singh Dale. Middlesex will now be optimistic about their chances of declaring their innings on the final day and achieving an unlikely victory.

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