Cricket: Hewitt steers Middlesex to safety

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The Independent Online
Glamorgan 308 Middlesex 250-9

MIDDLESEX would appear to have one or two problems. Batting springs immediately to mind after they slid dangerously close to the follow-on. It was not until David Nash, Jamie Hewitt and, latterly, Angus Fraser got their heads down that the critical mass of 159 runs to avoid such humiliation was safely negotiated.

Nash has already scored a century this season but yesterday's unbeaten 75, which occupied more than four hours, was no less important since it went a long way to keeping Middlesex in this match. At one point, they looked as if they would struggle to avoid the follow-on. But Hewitt, who is having a fine match, hung around long enough with Nash to see them well past the magic figure of 159 runs. He shared in a seventh-wicket stand of 52.

Ian Blanchett fell almost immediately but then Fraser appeared and played some correct drives and some not so correct shots to help add 51 for the ninth wicket. Suddenly it did not look so bad for Middlesex; Nash and Phil Tufnell then stole a second bonus point which was some sort of a lesson to the the top order batsmen. But it is with their bowling that the real trouble lies.

Despite the fact that Fraser and Hewitt were able to roll over the last five Glamorgan wickets for next to nothing in no time, their attacking options remain limited.

The strike bowler Richard Johnson had an exploratory knee operation yesterday and will be out for at least two weeks; Tim Bloomfield has a side strain; Richard Fay walked out of the game at the start of the season, although to be fair he had not featured in the Middlesex line-up for the last couple of seasons. To make matters worse, Fraser looks a cert to make the Test team to face South Africa.

At least the bowlers did their stuff yesterday, finding movement in the air and off the pitch. Hewitt looked particularly sharp claiming 5 for 69; it is almost a year since he last managed the feat of five or more in an innings - on that occasion he finished with a career best 6 for 14 against Glamorgan in Cardiff in June.

That Glamorgan scraped together enough runs to earn themselves a third bonus point can be put down chiefly to Tony Cottey. He added only eight runs to his overnight 73 but they were invaluable as it turned out. Then it was Middlesex's turn to show that batting was not easy on the same pitch on which they had lost their Benson & Hedges quarter-final last week. They made quite a fist of it, too. Their top three batsmen were back in the pavilion, victims of a lethal spell of bowling by Steve Watkin, in the space of 19 balls before lunch.

After lunch, Darren Thomas struck twice, including yorking Mike Gatting, and it needed some prudent shot selection by Nash, Hewitt and Fraser to guide them into the realms of respectability. They were also able to take advantage of the fact that Waqar Younis, usually so devastating, was out of the attack with an elbow injury, the Pakistan Test fast bowler having gone for 26 in three wicketless overs.

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