Cricket: Franks outplays England hopefuls

Nottinghamshire 229-8 Middlesex 150 Notts win by 79 runs
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A DAY on which Nottinghamshire's Chris Read might have hoped to be pushing himself towards the forefront of selectorial minds turned out instead to be one for an England A team-mate to enhance his reputation. Read's case to keep wicket for England in the forthcoming Test series against New Zealand is gathering momentum but he was overshadowed here by Paul Franks.

As Middlesex slumped to an emphatic defeat - their second in five days at Trent Bridge - the 20-year-old right-arm seamer not only underlined his bowling talent but demonstrated some handy ability with the bat and threw in a decisive run-out for good measure. Not surprisingly, he was named man of the match.

Read, whose 160 against Warwickshire in in the Championship last week added much weight to his credentials, announced himself yesterday with a flurry of boundaries but perished too soon, leg before on the back foot to the off-spin of Paul Weekes, who he had been trying to work on the leg side. He had made 30 off 25 balls.

His departure set in motion a steady Nottinghamshire decline, as they seemed to be wasting the platform provided by Tim Robinson and Paul Johnson, who put on 71 for the first wicket.

Weekes also dismissed Johnson after a 59-ball half-century, and, as the home side's innings lost its direction, the Middlesex captain, Mark Ramprakash, who called upon seven bowlers, must have felt rather pleased with the way he had rotated his resources.

Even after Franks had made his first notable contribution, hitting an unbeaten 26 in 38 balls to give the total respectability, it seemed comfortably within Middlesex's scope to avenge the five-wicket defeat suffered in the National League last Saturday. But Franks, called up as a replacement on last winter's England A tour to South Africa, had more up his sleeve.

Taking the new ball, he had Middlesex in immediate trouble, removing Mike Roseberry and then Weekes in his first spell. When Mark Bowen then uprooted Justin Langer's middle stump with an inswinger of near-yorker length, the visitors were 28 for 3.

Ramprakash took it upon himself to organise a recovery, guiding another A tourist, the 20-year-old Owais Shah, through a partnership that added 95 in 22 overs and appeared likely to propel their side, quarter-finalists last year, into the last 16. But after Shah had been snapped up by Read to a thin edge off Chris Tolley, Franks stepped up with another decisive blow.

It was a horrible one for Ramprakash, who thought - questionably - there was a single to be had off Franks but then, with his new partner David Nash unimpressed, turned back. The indecision allowed Franks to hit the stumps.

Thereafter, Middlesex fell apart, no one else reaching double figures. Their last seven wickets tumbled for 27 runs. Bowen finished with 3 for 32, Franks, a startlingly impressive 3 for 7.