Bracey punishes Middlesex as Harris hits milestone

Middlesex's James Harris claimed his 500th first-class wicket on day two of their match with Gloucestershire

Middlesex's James Harris claimed his 500th first-class wicket on day two of their match with Gloucestershire - Credit: PA

James Bracey gave the England selectors a timely nudge in front of the Sky TV cameras as Gloucestershire tightened their grip on their clash with Middlesex on day two at Lord’s.

Bracey, a reserve on England’s tours of Sri Lanka and India this last winter, passed 50 for the fifth time this season in making 75 to stake a claim for a place in next month’s first Test against New Zealand.

The hero of last week’s successful run chase against Leicestershire, Ian Cockbain made 51, sharing a stand of 91 for the fifth wicket with Bracey, while former Middlesex all-rounder Ryan Higgins bludgeoned 49 as the visitors totalled 273 for a lead of 63.

James Harris claimed his 500th first-class wicket among figures of two for 49 , while Martin Andersson returned three for 64, but Middlesex’s fragile batting saw them collapse to 26 for three by the close, still 37 behind.

Gloucestershire began the day 19-1 and survived a testing first session for the loss of just nightwatchman Matt Taylor, caught behind by John Simpson from the bowling of Andersson.

Harris broke through soon after the resumption, having West Indies Test captain Kragg Brathwaite brilliantly caught in the gully by Sam Robson for 33 off an uncharacteristically wild slash.

Murtagh then trapped Tom Lace lbw and Gloucestershire would have been 109-5 had Bracey, then on 36 been snapped up at gully, but the chance went to ground.

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The wicketkeeper cashed in on his reprieve, moving to 50 from 115 balls with the help of a towering six off left-arm spinner Thilan Walallawita.

Cockbain was even more fluent, a gorgeous cover-drive one of eight boundaries in his 50 from 78 balls, before Harris bowled him with a beautiful in-swinger to claim his personal milestone.

Bracey threw his wicket away soon after tea, hooking Andersson to Harris at fine leg, but Higgins’ typically aggressive contribution ensured Gloucestershire’s handy advantage.

Middlesex were soon in trouble second time around Higgins trapping Robson lbw for just eight.

The out-of-form Max Holden got into a horrible position to be caught and bowled by David Payne and skipper Peter Handscomb’s wretched run continued when he was caught behind off Taylor leaving the group two leaders scenting a fourth win of the season ahead of day three.