Cricket: Hive of activity off the field

Middlesex 204 and 151-3 Somerset 253

THE cricket went to sleep on a warm and pleasant afternoon after the rain had claimed 20 overs at the start. It gave one the chance to have a look at all the other activities which are making Lord's such a centre of the Universe at the moment.

The noise of hammers, the metallic hiss of welding tools and the odd flash of a blowlamp kept us all on our toes.

The batsmen did not find the boundary with anything like the frequency they had managed on Wednesday. Led by a most responsible innings from Mark Lathwell, Somerset's lead of 49 still looks as if it might be significant; Middlesex batted again to try and make sure that it was not against a disgracefully slow over rate.

At first glance, the new media centre looks as if it may have lost its way on the journey to Cape Kennedy. It has been absorbed into a maze of scaffolding and is lying forlornly on its side, a huge and mildly inebriated white sausage. Characters in hard white hats clambered over it all day.

Of course, it blocks the view of some of the trees at the Nursery End and now there is no chance of glimpsing the St John's Wood church through the foliage, a sight especially dear to Gubby Allen when he ruled over Lord's through the Committee Room windows for all those years. In fact, the space ship, although a surprise, is not offensive.

Building also continues apace on the upper decks of the new Grandstand where there is also a myriad of scaffolding accompanied by intermittent banging. They plan to complete it by the 18 June, the first day of the Lord's Test match. Keep your fingers crossed.

The new computerised scoreboard at the back of the Compton Stand is all the things most such scoreboards are not. It is beautifully clear and bright, startlingly accurate and tells you everything - or just about everything - you will want to know except the detailed extras. By the way, Father Time's temporary home on top of the Tavern scoreboard has now become his permanent resting place.

Lathwell's first innings for Somerset this year was a fine piece of batting while Richard Johnson worked hard for his 7 for 86, his best figures since he took 10 for 45 against Derbyshire in 1994. Middlesex's resistance then centred around Justin Langer, the obdurate Western Australian, who reached a good fifty.

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