Cricket: Gatting turns on the style

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Glamorgan 562-3 dec

Middlesex 477-5

YOU can tell Glamorgan's resurgence has the English worried. They shut down the M4 yesterday between Windsor and Maidenhead, leaving irritated motorists soldiering on through near-virgin countryside. The Welsh, of course, would put it down to another ploy by the Test selectors to keep their players out of the England team.

Not that this top-of-the-table meeting at Sophia Gardens has provided evidence to suggest Glamorgan's omitted players would fare better than those playing at Trent Bridge. The batsmen in the frame, Hugh Morris and Matthew Maynard, missed out in Glamorgan's mammoth total of 562 for 3 declared. And one look at the straw-coloured pudding of a pitch must have told Steven Watkin there was nothing in it but toil. So it proved, even if Watkin did take two of only three wickets which fell in the five sessions from Friday morning until tea yesterday.

Watkin heads the first-class list with more than 50 wickets, but it was not possible here to judge his prospects against Australia's strong batting line-up. The selectors have had similar reservations. Watkin moved the ball away from right handers, but on a pitch providing runs galore he also showed he lacks that extra yard of pace to undermine in-form batsmen.

Whether or not Mike Gatting was in form at the start of play yesterday is a moot point. An irrelevant one, too. With a selection of beautiful cover drives and those crunching short-arm jabs which are his speciality, he ran into form to take Middlesex beyond their daunting follow-on target of 431.

Twice early on he advanced down the pitch to loft Robert Croft over his head, getting his range right the second time to clear the boundary, and in a purple patch after passing 150 he pasted Adrian Dale for four successive boundaries. His 173 came from 279 balls in five hours of intense heat and contained two sixes and 21 fours.

This was Gatting's first hundred of the season. But it could have been different had Dale not dropped him at second slip when the Middlesex captain was nine. Having plundered an unbeaten 214 on the previous two days Dale must have known what that drop would mean. The vicissitudes of cricket are such that the miss was bound to rebound on Glamorgan. The luckless bowler was Roland Lefebvre, who in his five overs before lunch conceded eight runs which, allied to his Friday figures of 10-6-8-0, suggested that his pace was just right for the conditions. It was something of a surprise that Morris did not make more use of him until later in the day when, by beating Gatting's weary back-foot defensive stroke, he precipitated something of a crisis as Middlesex lost two wickets in seven balls with the score on 441.

Mark Ramprakash, who had been padded up for 96 overs while Gatting and the night watchman John Emburey added 262 for the third wicket, never settled. Whereas throughout his own first hundred of the summer - the sixth of his career - Emburey was never less than unsettling for the Glamorgan bowlers. For the spectators too.

He could be a mite tiresome as he prodded endlessly and paddled occasionally, but every so often having hassled the bowlers into thinking attack was farthest from his mind, he would heave them ruthlessly through midwicket.

Emburey, too, gave an early chance, hitting Croft through Stephen James at short leg, but as he approached his hundred, made off 275 balls, he included some almost authentic cover drives in the 17 boundaries of his eventual 123.

Apart from entries in the record book, it is hard to see what relevance the 1,000 plus runs of the past three days have. Middlesex won the battle for bonus points

4-3, neither county has achieved four batting points this summer, but with Surrey getting 24 points in two days at the Oval, a run-fest was not what these Championship contenders wanted.