CRICKET Carr drives Hampshire to despair

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The Independent Online


reports from Lord's

Middlesex 189 and 342-3

Hampshire 169

The notion that John Carr may be an alien, substituted at birth, is borne out, opposing bowlers will tell you, by a stance that defies geometry and the ability to play shots that bend the laws of physics. They have put up with John Emburey's variations on the coaching manual, but Carr is a much greater threat: he scores hundreds, sometimes in rows.

Not since Peter Willey, in his later years, have we seen a batsman who takes guard as if expecting mid-on to bowl; even Willey was never able to turn the ball to leg at such an angle as to suggest a gentle lofted catch only for it to scorch across the grass to midwicket. How does he do it? Regular watchers of Mad Max and Blade Runner might have ideas.

He left Hampshire crying in frustration on another freakishly hot day. The breeze swung southwards, MCC's pennants exhibiting a July-like languor. The square presumably dried and Adrian Aymes was able to marshal a creditable 64 runs for Hampshire from the remaining four wickets after resuming at 105, to leave the deficit only 20.

Middlesex began 35 minutes before lunch, Jason Pooley this time addressing the ball as confidently as his captain. Seventeen overs had gone before Heath Streak, the subject of some muttering by Hampshire members, cheered them by having Pooley caught behind; in the next over Mike Gatting was bowled straight driving, and for the only time in the day Middlesex rocked.

Thursday's destroyer, John Stephenson, was not called upon until the 25th over, then conceded 30 runs in 36 balls. Mark Ramprakash was watchful, facing 35 balls before cutting his first boundary. Carr was only a little less so, only scoring 16 off his first 50 deliveries.

Streak's recall, from the Pavilion End, must have set off some electronic signals. Carr drove him for in one over, then turned on Shaun Udal, his 50 arriving off 32 balls. Ten runs later he offered Udal a return catch that was so unexpected the bowler dropped the ball, sinking to the ground as if in despair.

The off-spinner was despairing - departing later with a stomach upset - when Ramprakash pulled him for six to reach his fourth half-century in five first-class innings.

Carr romped to his century with a magnificently pulled six off Cardigan Connor (133 balls). Ramprakash's 21st century followed 10 overs later (169 balls. The stand was 253 in 61 overs before there was a malfunction, Carr offering a leading edge. He deserved to end a dusty day with champagne; it was his fifth wedding anniversary.