Cricket: Carr wins his game of patience

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Middlesex . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .273

Essex . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .174-6

IF Graham Gooch and Micky Stewart, representing respectively Middlesex's greatest rivals, Essex and Surrey, want to undermine the Metropolitan revival, the first thing they must do is break up the Emburey- Tufnell partnership. Until the two spinners appeared in harness at 3.30, this match was going very much Essex's way.

In the course of an interrupted morning, Essex ensured that Middlesex's remaining four wickets made no more than 44 runs. John Carr, as on Tuesday, continued his defiant holding-up of one end.

Carr showed his admirable temperament by completing his first century of the season, but only after he had been forced to wait, for 16 minutes, in the dressing room while rain and bad light eased sufficiently for play to continue.

Carr was on 94 when the gloom descended. The batsmen stayed on, in the rain and with four lights showing on the scoreboard, but Essex refused to give it away, John Childs posting five men on the boundary. Eventually even the umpires had had enough and off went a relieved Essex. On the resumption (still raining, three lights showing) Carr gave no sign of tension, calmly pulling Don Topley to square leg for his ton. Essex may have been wet, and ratty, but Middlesex were all out for 273.

The champions relieved some of their frustrations with quick- fire batting. Paul Prichard and Nick Knight had raised 41 in nine overs to lunch; Prichard needed only 55 balls for his half-century (including a pulled six off Angus Fraser). At 62, in 15 overs, Knight stepped across, raised his bat with aplomb and was stricken to see Chas Taylor's delivery (left arm to left hand) flatten the off stump.

Fraser's second spell, downhill, was one of his most successful since his comeback, although Prichard looked none too happy at the decision that he had been caught behind. When Mark Waugh was caught at slip Middlesex had just about drawn level, although Essex's 122 had come from only 28 overs.

Then came Phil Tufnell, the rate dropping immediately. John Emburey's second ball tempted a low return catch from Nasser Hussain; in the next over Nadeem Shahid fell to a spiteful spinner from Tufnell, and Mike Garnham was beaten by one that both turned and lifted; he was caught in three minds.

Back came the rain, reducing the spinners' hegemony, and although play carried on once more it was clear that both bowlers were having difficulty gripping the ball. Eventually one delivery flew from Tufnell's grasp to fall some five yards to square leg of Jonathan Lewis, who was virtually becalmed with 12 runs in 28 overs.

'Hit it,' roared his partner Don Topley. Lewis looked confused and then walked across, addressed the ball while Dean Headley, equally confused, stood vaguely close by, and then drilled it into the boundary board. No one off the field, sadly, caught Tufnell's merry quip to the broadly-grinning Topley.

More rain and cloud ended play soon after 5pm. A result is still possible, given a full day, although Mark Ilott has a pulled hamstring and Fraser a sore shin. Some apology is necessary to the good citizens of Ilford for referring to Valentine's Park lake as 'foul- looking'. The lake is fine, it's the ponds that are scummy and Redbridge Council have quite enough conservation problems with a certain Mrs Desiree Ntole's mud hut in Wanstead.