Cricket: Johnson doubles his tally

Leicestershire 228 Middlesex 16-0
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The Independent Online
LEICESTERSHIRE'S SLIM chance of repeating last year's trick of catching Surrey in the closing weeks of the season looked to have been reduced to anorexic proportions at tea, after play had finally got underway a day and a session late here yesterday. But a ninth wicket fight-back by Jonathan Dakin and Mike Kasprowicz which began at 138 for 8 undid much of Middlesex's good work.

Inspired by Angus Fraser, captaining Middlesex for the first time, Richard Johnson proved the pick of their attack, taking 4 for 50 in 15 overs, although Simon Cook, a promising all-rounder, Ben Hutton, grandson of Sir Len, and Jamie Hewitt all played a part.

Johnson, still only 24, has been hit by injury ever since he was obliged to pull out of England's 1995 tour to South Africa. In those days it was a back problem, but since then it has been a variety of ailments, including this season a broken hand. Yesterday, though, he doubled his tally of wickets for the season as the early Leicestershire batting disintegrated on a pitch that offered the bowlers little by way of deviation. There was, however, considerable cloud cover for most of the day and Fraser's men found just enough movement through the air.

Hewitt made the first breakthrough in the second over. Having been pulled dismissively by Darren Stevens through square-leg, revenge came with the next ball which moved away from the Leicestershire opener, who became the first of four victims for the Middlesex wicket-keeper David Nash.

Nash's opposite number, Paul Nixon, was promoted in the Foxes' batting order as they sought quick runs to make up for the lost time, and he crashed about to good effect before getting an inside edge to the ball of the day from Fraser.

Ben Smith was quickly on his way, thanks to an athletic return catch by Cook, and although Iain Sutcliffe's 58 was full of fluent strokes he would have been disappointed to give Johnson his first wicket with a thick edge to first slip.

Aftab Habib never looked comfortable in a stay of 74 minutes for just 14 runs but it still took a magnificent catch by Richard Kettleborough at backward point to dislodge him. Chris Lewis then played on.

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