The hosts were in trouble at 53 for 4 in response to Surrey’s 433 all-out, which was based around Jamie Smith’s first-day ton.
Simpson’s half-century came with a six into the Mound Stand,
Surrey 433 (Smith 138, Burns 79, Clark 78, Helm 6-110) trail Middlesex 179 for 5 (Simpson 55*, Holden 55) by 254 runs.
On day two at Lord’s, John Simpson and Max Holden shared a century stand to give Middlesex hope of avoiding a follow-on against reigning champions Surrey.
The hosts were in trouble at 53 for 4 in response to the visitors’ 433 all out, but former England U19 captain Holden and redoubtable wicketkeeper Simpson contributed 116 for the fifth wicket.
Holden was bowled shortly before the close, but a defiant Simpson will stand guard on day three, 55 not out, with Middlesex 179 for 5, with Sean Abbot collecting two wickets.
Surrey had already cleared 400, with Jamie Smith finishing on 138 and Jordan Clark on 78, with Tom Helm completing a career-best 6-110 for the hosts.
Stand-in skipper Mark Stoneman hinted at a solid response to Surrey’s massive first-innings total, creaming two early off-drives into the covers, but it was a false dawn as, with only 11 to his name, he floated a fine one from Clark through to wicketkeeper Ben Foakes.
It would be the ‘Brown Hats’ only win for a while, but a combination of tight seam bowling and a lack of desire from Pieter Malan and Sam Robson—the latter batting at three for some reason—meant the hosts crept along at two runs per over.
Perhaps this explains South African Malan’s wild cross-bat swish to a simple ball from Jamie Overton, which took the under-edge and gave Foakes a second comfortable catch.
As has happened far too frequently this season, the loss of one Middlesex batter resulted in three others falling for a total of 10 runs in 39 balls.
Last week, Robson was a century at Merchant Taylors’ when one from Sean Abbott came back into him up the slope and went off the inside edge onto the stumps via the thigh pad.
The hosts’ agonizing afternoon finished with Jack Davies, filling in for the injured Stephen Eskinazi, taking 18 balls to get off the mark only to fence at one from Tom Lawes, delivering it into the clutches of Dom Sibley at slip.
The bell calling the players back after tea felt like a death sentence for the struggling home team, but Holden and Simpson showed some intestinal fortitude.
Holden showed some of the T20 form that earned him a wildcard pick from the Manchester Originals for the next Hundred, driving nicely off both the front and back foot, while Simpson produced one exquisite cut and scored an all-run four off an overthrow.
Overton attempted some chin music, but Holden’s sixth four through third man propelled him to his second Championship half-century of the season from 93 balls before Simpson again reached the rail to lift the century stand.
Simpson’s half-century came with a six into the Mound Stand, but just as it appeared that Middlesex would reach stumps without further loss, Abbott found the edge of Holden’s bat, and a diving Sibley did the rest.
Surrey had resumed on 312 for 5 and had made steady, unspectacular progress, save for a six over square leg by Clark off Ryan Higgins, before Smith was castled by Helm from a one that came back through the gate.
Clark cruised to a 91-ball 50 but was afterwards perturbed, if not upset, by Ethan Bamber’s five consecutive deliveries beating him outside the off stump. The youthful seamer, who had gone wicketless on day one, was finally rewarded when Abbott lifted him into Malan’s hands at deep square.
Clark’s magnificent effort came to an end when Tim Murtagh got one to bounce and take the edge, which flew to Robson at slip, and while Overton delivered a few powerful hits, Helm cleaned up the tail for his first ever six-for in Championship cricket.
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