IT WAS always going to be a day for struggles. Of bowlers staying loose and batsmen struggling to play their shots. The cold and the grey saw to that.
Middlesex, the county champions, are still looking for their first win of the season. On the evidence so far, they can ill afford to squander opportunities as they did at Lord's yesterday and only a battling century of great patience by Mike Roseberry, the 17th of his career, saw them overhaul Warwickshire's modest total of 211 by 38 runs.
With a scintillating half-century, by Brian Lara, off 52 balls, illuminating the gloom late in the day, the match - without some collusion between the captains on Monday - now seems destined for a draw.
Facing a first-innings deficit of 38 runs, Warwickshire were soon in trouble when Roger Twose was leg before in Angus Fraser's first over. As this meant the arrival of Lara, it was a popular dismissal all round, the frozen conditions testing the allegiance of even the hardiest of spectators.
Cautious at first, Lara allowed Dominic Ostler to dominate proceedings with some crisply punched drives through the covers. However, once the Trinidadian had found the meat with that swivelled whip-shot of his, there was no stopping him and he took several more boundaries off Fraser before the England bowler registered his displeasure with that hand on hips 'teapot' of his.
The arrival of Richard Johnson in the attack - now dubbed as Lara's nemesis - was greeted brutally when Ostler hooked his loosener for a mighty six. Five balls later the bowler had his revenge when, for the sixth time that day, the umpire risked frostbite to his finger and gave another leg before.
Earlier, Middlesex, resuming through Roseberry and Gatting, had made the most of a profligate opening spell by the Warwickshire bowlers, and by Gladstone Small in particular. Small, now 32, is having a good season but he fell into the classic mistake of not bowling a tight enough line from the Nursery End, something he rectified when he returned there after lunch.
Gatting, having successfully farmed the Lord's slopes for nigh on 20 years now, was not about to miss out. Punching anything marginally short on off-stump down the hill with that trademark cut of his, and clipping anything too straight and full through mid-wicket, he posted his 50 with a handsome drive off Tim Munton that beat mid-on's right hand.
With 10 boundaries in his half-century, Gatting was making batting on a difficult pitch - Mike Roseberry was scratching around at the other end - look ridiculously easy. As is so often the case on seaming pitches, appearances can often flatter to deceive and just as the game was brightening, Gatting was out to the very next ball, leg before without offering a stroke as Munton brought one back down the slope. Dedicated followers of the game will have seen it all before, for Gatting made a habit of this kind of thing during his Test career.
This brought in Mark Ramprakash who, after a poor winter in the West Indies, must now face yet another season of soul searching if he is to rebuild his reputation as an England batsman. Imbued with a fiercely tenacious character, he has in the past fallen foul of authority for occasionally channelling this ferocity in the wrong direction. His failings in the West Indies, though, had nothing to do with temper, more to do with a curious reticence to play his shots.
But forcing the pace was never going to be easy against bowlers now settling in and, although Ramprakash's watchfulness was punctuated by odd moments of savagery - a pulled six off Munton that went into the Tavern stand - he perished just after lunch, caught by Lara at first slip as he tried to slash Small through the off-side.
This opened the floodgates for Warwickshire, and Middlesex proceeded to lose their next three wickets for only 18 runs as John Carr, Paul Weekes and Keith Brown were all sent back in rapid succession, though Weekes' return to the pavilion was slow enough for even the sleepiest of MCC members in the Long Room to realise he was disgruntled with the umpire's decision.
With Reeve replacing Small, whose post-lunch spell brought him figures of three for 10, Middlesex lost both Johnson and Neil Williams to the mysteries of the Warwickshire skipper's slow medium swing and seam. Emburey then joined Roseberry, who on the stroke of tea struck Munton for two fours to bring up his century. Together the pair added 45 painstaking runs in a bid to take their side towards a second batting point. Agonisingly, they fell one run short, as both Roseberry and Fraser fell in the space of two overs as Middlesex were bowled out for 249.
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