Cricket: Fine time for Weekes

Leicestershire Middlesex 293-8
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The Independent Online
THEY MAY find it rather surprising South of the Thames or West of the Pennines, but Leicestershire started this match yesterday on a perfectly decent, brand new pitch. Equally surprised, no doubt but very grateful were Middlesex even though they found themselves at 20 for 4 early on.

It could have been the sort of disaster they hardly needed after their two-day defeat at Hove, but centuries of vastly different character by Paul Weekes and Mark Ramprakash, who added 229 for the fifth wicket, put everything into perspective.

True, the pitch had a greenish tinge to it and the ball moved around early on. But a hot, cloudless day was always meant for batting, even if Middlesex's early efforts suggested a collective loss of footwork, which invariably happens when confidence is low.

At that stage Vince Wells, swinging the ball from a requisite full length, cleaned out three batsmen for one run in six overs. He then went off for treatment to an injured knee. By the time he was able to bowl again, the ball had lost its hardness, was moving around less and Weekes and Ramprakash had got the taste of battle.

If that was a break for Middlesex, this pair richly deserved it. Ramprakash is clearly the most talented England batsman (one wonders why he is not with the one-day squad) but he ventured nothing exotic, simply digging in and dealing with the moving ball by playing very straight and well forward.

Weekes matched him in that respect and was no less bloody-minded. His left-handedness was no doubt an irritation to an attack that seemed unable to avoid bowling one bad ball an over as the day wore on. That Weekes could not always time everything to his satisfaction probably worked to his favour, too; several half-hit shots narrowly avoided the field.

But he should have gone at 50 when Wells, placed in the old fashioned position of leg slip precisely for the purpose, failed to hold a fast chance off the face of the bat. Then, at 91, Jonathan Dakin deceived him with a slower ball but the mistimed stroke dropped short of extra cover.

Between times, though, Weekes enjoyed himself on the back foot and tucked into anything short. His hundred, made from 209 balls with 14 fours and a hooked six, was his first for two years. Ramprakash reached three figures from 230 balls with 14 fours until, not for the first time this season, he looked disappointed to be given out caught at the wicket.