SO FAR as farces are concerned, this was initially well up to the sort of standard Brian Rix might have expected at the Whitehall Theatre, though the mirth here at the Recreation Ground yesterday surrounded not so much dropped trousers as pleas that Desmond Haynes drop a catch. When the going became serious, however, Haynes weighed in with his first century of the season to steer Middlesex to victory with six balls to spare.
While the West Indian was eventually able to take a well-earned bow, he was earlier at the centre of extraordinary scenes. Middlesex were serving up what is popularly known in the trade as cafeteria bowling when a Somerset collapse threw the equation. Finally, Adrian van Troost heaved one to leg off John Carr, the Middlesex captain's shouts of 'drop it, drop it' falling on deaf ears as Haynes grasped the ball.
Carr next had an animated conversation with the umpire, Barry Meyer, in an effort to get Van Troost reinstated. But, as Meyer said during the lunch interval, because there had been no appeal there was no decision to rescind. Haynes, like a true professional, had simply performed a task that he is paid for and poor Carr hung around in the hope that Somerset would send in another man.
The trouble was that with eight wickets down they had now run out of personnel, Ian Fletcher out with a broken finger suffered in the first innings and Andy Hayhurst's hamstring having given up on him when fielding on Saturday. No one on or off the field, meanwhile, seemed to have the slightest clue what on earth was going on.
The deal that Carr and his opposite number, Chris Tavare, had struck was one that would have left Middlesex needing to make 275 runs over the last two sessions. As it was, Somerset had been busy helping themselves to the kind of rubbish that enabled Neil Burns to make 79 when suddenly they lost four wickets for four runs in 11 balls.
Some collapse, and by now our sides were splitting, but with Middlesex facing a target of 258 from 70 overs the equation, after all, was only 17 runs out. 'At the end of the day, ' Bob Cottam, the Somerset coach, said, 'it won't make a jot of difference. It will be an entertaining contest for the crowd.' And it was, Middlesex, the only unbeaten side in the Championship, retaining a share of the leadership by pacing the chase to perfection on what has proved a difficult wicket.
While Matthew Keech soon departed, Haynes and Mark Ramprakash put on 95 for the second wicket and Haynes and Keith Brown 97 for the fifth, Haynes taking his departure after 245 minutes at the crease to leave Middlesex only 10 short of their objective.
Somerset had tried their damnedest to break through with a long spell from the leg-spinner, Mushtaq Ahmed, but his 27 overs went for a century of runs. Haynes played him beautifully and his innings included nine fours and two sixes.