Cricket: Langer drives way to double century

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The Independent Online
JUSTIN LANGER showed why he deserves the confidence and trust Middlesex have placed in him when the 27-year-old Australian made 233 not out against Somerset yesterday, the fifth double century in his tally of 20 first- class hundreds.

Langer and the 20-year-old David Nash (114) put on 222 for the third wicket, making full use of a pitch which had now rolled out into the flattest of surfaces. They have left Middlesex, who declared their second innings at 450 for 4, well placed for their first County Championship victory of the season in a stand which was full of lovely strokes and a compliment to a perfect early summer's day.

Langer, who stands 5ft 8in, is a chunky left-hander with all the purpose- built effectiveness of his fellow countrymen, Allan Border. Left-handers who are lacking in inches are seldom as graceful as their taller fellow travellers, although another Australian, Neil Harvey, was a shining exception.

Langer's best stroke is his off-drive, which he plays with a power which comes almost entirely from a lovely natural sense of timing. He was 80 when play began on the third day and, in the second over, leaned forward to Graham Rose and pushed the ball past mid-off with timing that gave the fielders no chance.

He straight-drove Andy Caddick decisively for four to reach his 100, but came to his 200 off a wild drive which might have been caught above his head by first slip.

The cover drive of Kevin Shine, which had taken him to 185, was another classic. He celebrated the award of his county cap during the tea interval by coming down the pitch and pull-driving Keith Parsons for his only six. In all, he faced 367 balls and hit one six and 33 fours.

It was greatly to the credit of Nash that he was in no way out-done. He, too, drove handsomely, timed the ball nicely off his legs, and always looked composed. This was his second hundred and his highest score.

After Nash had been caught at slip, Keith Brown, playing most competently as always, helped Langer add 119 for the fifth wicket before the declaration.

Somerset's second innings was only in the fourth over when Michael Burns was, almost inevitably, caught by Langer at third slip off James Hewitt.