Cricket: Fluent Harden and Lathwell lift tone

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The Independent Online
Middlesex 204; Somerset 157-5

FIFTEEN wickets fell for 361 runs in a day which brought no fewer than 58 fours, statistics not all that easy to reconcile. The ball moved around off the seam particularly in the morning when Middlesex lost six wickets for 83 in 29 overs.

In the afternoon, the last four wickets added 121 when Richard Johnson, Paul Weekes and James Hewitt hit no less then 22 fours. The explanation was that most of the surface moisture had dried under the sun and batting was easier.

When Somerset began their innings, Angus Fraser and Johnson also moved the ball around. After 17 overs, they were 45 for 3 before Richard Harden and Mark Lathwell began to bat as confidently as Middlesex's lower order had, adding 97 in 144 balls. Their 50 partnership came in 54 balls and the ball was constantly going to the boundary. The bowling, like Somerset's after lunch, was untidy and the batsmen had too many chances to play their strokes.

After Justin Langer had been caught at first slip pushing half-forward to Kevin Shine, Mike Gatting produced four of his trademark square cuts before being caught behind trying to run a ball to third man. Owais Shah cut at the wrong ball and movement away from the bat counted for David Nash.

Keith Brown, Middlesex's captain in the absence of Mark Ramprakash, who has a bruised finger, was caught at third slip. The only man to hold firm was Richard Kettleborough, who was sixth out when he forced at Andy Caddick and Keith Parsons held a diving catch in the gulley.

After lunch, Weekes and Hewitt played some lovely strokes and Peter Bowler had to call up Mushtaq Ahmed to put an end to it. Johnson and Fraser accounted for the Somerset openers before tea and in the first over afterwards Johnson found the edge of Parsons' bat.

Harden and Lathwell restored some sort of order and Phil Tufnell was given his first bowl of the season for Middlesex. Both batsmen reached fifties and Harden was then bowled driving across Johnson while Robert Turner also perished before the close.