Cricket: Gatting attacks curse of apathy

County Championship: Langer shows winning discipline for Middlesex but Worcestershire are left to rue run-out;Middlesex 96 and 218-3 Middlesex win by seven wkts
Click to follow
The Independent Online
IF, AS many maintain, English cricket has problems then some of them were perfectly illustrated at Lord's over the last couple of days. The pitch, which had to be reported, should not shoulder the blame for a four- day match failing by a long way to run its true course.

If the pitch did lack bounce it was nothing to what the majority of the batsmen on both sides appeared to lack, which was attitude, application and concentration. Indeed the key factors in Middlesex's victory were two Australians; or to be more precise the absence of one - Matthew Hayden, the Northamptonshire captain who was nursing an ankle injury - and the presence of another, Justin Langer.

Had Hayden played there is little doubt that Northamptonshire would have faired better in each innings since before this last round of matches he was up there with the Championship's leading run-makers. If Langer had not been there to compile the 32nd hundred of his firstclass career, then, on the evidence of their first innings when the whole team failed to reach three figures, Middlesex might well have come unstuck.

The whole sorry mess left Middlesex's coach Mike Gatting, who is an England selector, admitting afterwards: "I do despair at times. You would think the players would have learned something in the year and a half that Langer has been with us. He is a very fine player but, like all good batsmen, he works at it. When we had some time off last week Langer spent two days at Finchley on the bowling machine putting in a bit of hard work on the basics of batting.

"In English cricket generally I think there is a lack of application. Some players coming through now are not prepared to make the sacrifice. Players like Langer will just tell me they are off to the nets to work on something; I don't have to tell him. I could tell the players to work on this or that but, really, they have to want to do it. Otherwise it is a waste of my time."

At least Middlesex emerged with their bowling reputation intact and 16 points from the encounter. Langer and Paul Weekes knocked off the 59 runs required in 69 minutes of the morning session, their unbroken fourth-wicket stand realising 104 runs.

Langer's third hundred of the season contained a six and 14 boundaries. He was dropped in the slips when he was on 68, but when the bowlers have 179 opportunities to dismiss a batsman, as Northamptonshire's admirable bunch did at Langer, then the odds are on something like that happening. But the four watchful hours he spent at the crease were a lesson in concentration, application and technique that a lot of others could emulate.