Cricket: Glamorgan denied in thrill of the chase

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The Independent Online
Middlesex 253 for 6 Glamorgan 234 Middlesex win by 19 runs

IT WAS bold and valiant while it lasted. It was essential to be foolhardy. But none of these attributes was enough to sustain Glamorgan's progress in the Benson and Hedges Cup at Sophia Gardens yesterday.

They were defeated by 19 runs but they were undone as much by the unforgiving demands of run rate as by the Middlesex bowling. Not only had they to reach a target of 254 but they had to do so in a mere 39 overs to overtake Essex in their group table and qualify for the quarter-finals.

How thrillingly they set about the task. Thirty-nine after five overs, 80 after ten and seizing all the advantages of the fielding restrictions they revealed one-day cricket in all its glory. Robert Croft was blazing away, Steve James was acting as a typically staunch foil and if all was not right with Glamorgan's world it soon would be. The loss of Croft soon after he reached his fifth consecutive one-day half-century was not terminal and Darren Thomas carved out a series of exciting blows.

Each bludgeoning hit was greeted by an ecstatic, delightfully partisan crowd as though it was another certain step on the journey to Lord's, a place graced only once by Glamorgan in 61 limited overs finals and not at all for 21 years. But if this sort of frenetic activity is dazzling to watch for all but the most curmudgeonly purists it also tends to border on cricketing suicide.

So it proved. The loss of three wickets in nine balls - Thomas and James both edging behind while trying to squeeze to third man and Adrian Shaw chipping to wide mid-on - in effect put a quarter-final place beyond Glamorgan's reach.

The loss of four more in another 46 balls, two of them being run out backing up at the non-striker's end, in effect put them out of the match. They re- grouped well. Waqar Younis and Steve Watkin took their time, picking the gaps as Middlesex gave the distinct impression that their job was done. But all this was too late. The figure that mattered at the end of the 39th over was 205 which made Glamorgan 49 runs short.

The disappointment was huge for there is a suspicion in Wales that they might - just - be prepared to forsake their Championship title for an appearance in a Lord's cup final. How they will rue being bowled out by Sussex and losing by three runs in their penultimate group match. Good as this team are they have extended a dismal B & H record. Not only have they never reached its final they have only been in the quarter-finals eight times in 27 years.

Middlesex have themselves had difficulties in this regard recently. Until they beat Sussex in this season's opening match they had not beaten a first-class county in the competition for three years. Now they have won all the group matches. The form of Keith Brown, promoted to limited overs opener, has been a key feature. He had scored 114, 39 and 46 and yesterday took the gold award for his 109.

There is not much that is elegant about Brown he is easy to admire because of the way he plays to his limitations. He and Justin Langer put on 117 for the first wicket and Brown lost nothing by comparison with the Australian who was never comfortable. Mark Ramprakash glittered awhile though he did not find the decision to give him out caught behind much to his liking.

Jason Pooley had struck the ball vigorously and Middlesex briefly seemed as though they were on their way to a target that might be unassailable in 50 overs, let alone the minimal amount eventually to be at Glamorgan's disposal.

Glamorgan restricted Middlesex to a mere 67 in their final 10 overs, slightly below par in these days of the slog. They had inserted the opposition on winning the toss because it would leave them knowing precisely what they had to do. The arithmetic took some time to work out and thoroughly exciting as it was, it was an equation always likely to be too difficult to solve.

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