Cricket: Gatting sweeps sweetly on: Henry Blofeld reports from Lord's

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Middlesex 236-6; Essex 142. Middlesex win by 94 runs

ESSEX were unable to grasp the lifeline they were offered in mid-afternoon when, in the space of one run, Mike Roseberry and Mike Gatting were out. They had put on 151 in 151 balls and, with 12 overs left, had Essex at their mercy.

After their dismissal yesterday, Middlesex were 157 for 3 and although their final tally of 236 for 6 turned out to be more than enough it was short of being unreachable. Essex finished with 142 and Middlesex won by 94 runs.

They could now win the Sunday League for the first time if they beat Yorkshire next Sunday at Uxbridge. If Essex are to go on and win the title for the fourth time, they will need an awful lot of luck.

They made a good start to the afternoon when, in the second over, Desmond Haynes tried to run Don Topley to third man. But now Roseberry, with his bottom hand much in evidence, and Gatting, who again revealed his love for the reverse sweep, took complete control in a splendid partnership.

The pitch was rough in patches, and it was clearly going to take spin. Neither Peter Such nor John Childs were allowed to settle down, however, especially by Gatting, who is one of the best players of spin bowling in the world. Graham Gooch, who was watching, will have noted this in view of the winter's tour through India and Sri Lanka.

Roseberry eventually lifted John Stephenson to deep square leg and, in the next over, Gatting drove to extra cover. It was now that the innings faltered momentarily, but Paul Weekes played some fine strokes near the end and Gatting will not have been unhappy with the final total.

Essex soon lost Stephenson, caught at deep square leg off Angus Fraser, but Paul Prichard and Nick Knight prospered for a while. They had taken the score to 67 when Prichard was stumped coming out to drive in Weekes's first over. After that, wickets fell with regularity and Essex were never again on terms with their target.