Matt Critchley hit an unbeaten 87 as Derbyshire ended the second day at Lord’s on 222-6, trailing Middlesex by 201 runs.
The all-rounder was the pick of the Derbyshire batsmen on a tough day out in the middle for the visitors, as the Middlesex pace attack struck at regular intervals after the batsmen had posted a challenging 423.
Derbyshire’s bowlers were frustrated in the morning session by a 66-run last wicket stand between Max Holden (119 not out) and Tim Murtagh (39) as Middlesex were eventually all out for 423, Lockie Ferguson and Matt Critchley picking up the final two wickets.
Billy Godleman’s side were 31-1 at the lunch interval, with Luis Reece the man out, lbw for 16 on his return to batting following a near four-month absence through injury.
Wayne Madsen (19) went past 11,000 career first-class runs after the interval, but was the second Derbyshire batsmen out lbw as James Harris picked up his first wicket.
19-year-old Ethan Bamber then claimed two in an over, removing Alex Hughes (9) and Harvey Hosein (0) in an excellent spell of quick, probing bowling to reduce Derbyshire to 62-4 and give Middlesex a firm advantage.
Critchley and Godleman set about rebuilding Derbyshire’s innings and were defensive, whilst picking off the bad balls, to get a foothold in the game.
They brought up their 50-run partnership five runs before Godleman was out to Martin Andersson for 28 and Middlesex looked to press on once again.
But wickets became harder to come by after tea as Critchley reached his half-century off 54 balls with eight fours in a sixth-wicket stand worth 60 with Gary Wilson (31).
The pair were well set and took Derbyshire to 187 at which point the lively Bamber struck again, Wilson lbw tying to flick to the leg side.
Derbyshire’s stop-start innings, during which Critchley’s fluent knock was the standout performance, was then halted by bad light for an hour, forcing the all-rounder and Anuj Dal (19 not out) to start again.
Dal was given a life as an edge to slips fell just in short of the fielder, but the Derbyshire pair remained resolute for the final few overs to steer their side to 222-6 at the close.
Four-day cricket is back! Derbyshire host their final Specsavers County Championship match of the season against Gloucestershire from Monday 24 September. Buy your tickets in advance and save.