Cricket: Gatting maintains a cool head: Middlesex's batting bravura

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The Independent Online
Leicestershire . . . . . . . . . . . .397

Middlesex . . . . . . . . . . . . . .258-3

THESE are heady days at Grace Road. The 'car park full' signs were dusted off and erected yesterday, picnic lunches were on sale and out in the middle a duel in the sun between Mike Gatting and Alan Mullally made an absorbing sub-plot to the main event.

There was no immediate winner, but Gatting - with a century here but not too many runs behind him this summer - needed a certain amount of luck as he and Mark Ramprakash at first dug in and then gave Middlesex's batting some bravura.

On this pitch, patience allied to a straight bat and attention to footwork were the main requirements. Gatting supplied all three qualities which, coupled with his pugnacious way with the bad ball, hinted that his lean spell was about to end.

Mullally, although briefly absent for repairs to a damaged toe, bowled testingly quickly at times, though arguably a shade too short. There was no evidence that he has yet mastered the art of bringing the ball back into the right-hander, but he still gave everyone enough to be going on with.

His ability to extract bounce made Gatting work very hard. At 14, one ball flew off the shoulder of the bat, or thereabouts, and just cleared gully. Even someone as staunchly in line as Gatting invariably is could not always avoid playing other flawed strokes.

As Gatting battled on, middling the odd hook and watching a bouncer or two sail over the wicketkeeper's head, Ramprakash began to fire off a series of high-class strokes at the other end, reaching his half-century from only 64 deliveries and including seven crisply driven boundaries.

All that, though, was enough to prompt Gatting to have a quiet word with his partner, probably suggesting he cool things a bit lest the repair work after the early departure of Desmond Haynes, blindingly caught by Ben Smith, and Mike Roseberry was wasted.

Earlier, Leicestershire had batted on with a target of at least 400 in mind. At that stage, Gatting did not call for the new ball, possibly feeling the softer old one was harder to score off, and John Emburey made the most of it by bowling much as he had on the first day.

He immediately picked up the wicket of Gordon Parsons, who was caught at short leg, but Paul Nixon, missing little that fed his strength outside the off stump, was within five runs of his second century of the season when he became Emburey's fourth victim of the morning after a stay of 188 balls.