THERE IS nothing wrong with Mike Gatting's timing. Just in case Lord's may have need soon to cast around for another England captain, he let the world know that he is fit and well with an excellent innings of 108.
After winning a useful toss on a pitch which had a bit of pace and helped strokeplay, Middlesex provided good entertainment against an Essex attack which did not have one of its best days.
Desmond Haynes began by peppering the offside boundary as only he can. There were eight fours in his first 39 runs. Then Mike Roseberry took up the running. A hook for six off John Stephenson was followed by a lovely back-foot drive through the covers and he was only five runs behind Haynes at the interval.
Shortly afterwards, Haynes was out hooking at Mike Kasprowicz, when he was caught at seond slip. But when Gatting joined Roseberry, runs began to come at a frightening pace. The Essex attack either bowled too short or too wide, and as a result were forever being cut or hooked for four.
Gatting played his usual array of thumping strokes against the seamers, and against the spin of Peter Such and John Childs was always looking to use his feet. There were several paddle sweeps and some cheeky late cuts as well.
Roseberry left when he hooked Stephenson and Ronnie Irani judged an awkward steepler to perfection at long leg. While Gatting continued on his uncomplicated way, Mark Ramprakash was obviously determined not to waste a good opportunity and progressed more thoughtfully.
Gatting reached his sixth hundred at Uxbridge - no wonder the road leading to the ground is called Gatting Way - with a fierce lofted square cut for four off Kasprowicz. Soon afterwards, when the score was 318, he was bowled off his pads trying to play Kasprowicz wide of mid-on.
For the last 20 overs, the tempo fell away somewhat against some steadier bowling, especially from Gooch, and when John Carr and Keith Brown were out Middlesex had lost just a little of their early advantage.Reuse content