Leicestershire 149 (Helm 3-23, Shaheen 3-54) and 37 for 3 (Evans 23*, Shaheen 2-18) trail Middlesex 370 (Stoneman 108, Simpson 71, Hollman 45, Mike 4-15) by 184 runs
However, Simpson with 71 and Hollman 45 sucked the life out of those hopes by adding 112 for the sixth wicket, carrying Middlesex past 300 in the first innings of a County Championship match for the third game in a row – the first time the Seaxes have achieved the feat since June 2017.
Middlesex resumed on 142 for 2, seven runs in arrears, but were soon ahead thanks to a flurry of boundaries from skipper Peter Handscomb. However, with the hard work looking like it had been done the Australian fenced at one from Chris Wright to be caught at slip.
New batter Max Holden was in a hurry, reverse sweeping Callum Parkinson to the boundary, but he never looked comfortable. At the other end Stoneman got an attack of the nervous 90s, surviving a huge lbw appeal from Parkinson on 99. His dab into the offside in search of his hundredth run saw a shy at the stumps which had it hit would have left Holden well short of his ground.
Holden’s skittish effort ended soon afterwards when he charged Parkinson only to jam the attempted drive into his foot, the ball rebounding onto his pads and then the stumps, disturbing the leg bail.
When Stoneman heaved across a long hop from the spinner the hosts were only 69 ahead, but Simpson and Hollman soon set about snuffing out any glimmer of light for the visitors.
Simpson, fresh from his hundred against Glamorgan last week, struck the ball purposefully from the off and Hollman caught the mood, twice punching Parkinson through the covers for four.
The afternoon saw the pair grow in confidence, Simpson lofting Parkinson over mid-off for four, one of eight in a 50 reached in 83 balls. Hollman too was enjoying himself, flat-batting a wide one from Beuran Hendricks over point for six.
Middlesex’s record sixth-wicket partnership of 130 against Leicestershire by grandees Clive Radley and Fred Titmus back in 1965 was in sight when the belatedly introduced Mike yorked Hollman five short of a deserved half-century, Simpson following to the same bowler shortly afterwards, caught at slip.
Mike ran through the tail, but some eccentric hitting – including a huge six by Afridi, who scored 29 – ensured a fourth batting point and a lead of 221.
Afridi’s batting antics served as a perfect warm-up for his new-ball burst and the Pakistani speedster struck in his third over, pinning Hassan Azad plumb in front and five balls later came the prize wicket of skipper Colin Ackerman, so often the scourge of Middlesex, who bagged a pair after edging to the safe hands of Hollman at slip.
Bamber, unusually bowling from the Nursery End to accommodate Afridi, joined in the fun by rearranging Louis Kimber’s furniture before mercifully for Leicestershire the fading light forced an early close.