THE SIGHT of Mike Atherton toting a notebook yesterday prompted the alarming thought that he was already considering joining the parade of ex-cricketers in the press box. However, it appears he was merely making sure he goes into this weekend's first selection meeting under the new chairman, Ray Illingworth, with plenty of background knowledge.
The England captain was accompanied by the team manager, Keith Fletcher, who, having dismissed India as 'nothing to worry about' shortly before suffering a 3-0 Test defeat last year, is unlikely to make snap judgements about New Zealand, even if a similar assumption may prove accurate now.
Having struggled to draws against Worcestershire and Somerset, the Kiwis quickly collapsed yesterday to 82 for 5 against a Middlesex side lacking John Emburey, Angus Fraser (both rested) and Phil Tufnell (who had an unavoidable appointment with an Enfield magistrate).
The mercurial Kevin Shine, with a 13-ball spell of three wickets for five runs, was the leading bowler but he was assisted by some poor shots, notably from the senior batsmen Ken Rutherford and Mark Greatbatch.
Stephen Fleming, a 21-year- old left-hander of great promise, rescued the innings, pulling Shine into the Tavern to get off the mark and going on to make an unbeaten 67. With Adam Parore he added 80 in 25 overs before the wicketkeeper gave his counterpart Keith Brown his third catch of the day.
The tourists, already weakened by the absence of Andrew Jones (retired) and Chris Cairns (injured), have now lost the seamer Simon Doull, who will go home this week with a shoulder injury. He is to be replaced by Michael Owens, a fast-medium bowler.
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