Cricket: Laws combine to put poor Middlesex in the shade

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The Independent Online
Essex 256 Middlesex 190 Essex win by 66 runs

What is it about the sunshine in Portugal? Last October, England went there to prepare for their tour of Zimbabwe which was spectacularly unsuccessful; in early April, Middlesex spent their customary week there and have now lost all four of the limited over matches they have played so far this season.

After Mike Gatting had put Essex in to bat, this rapidly became a disappointingly one-sided afternoon. Stuart Law, Essex's Australian, made a handsome 79 and then in the closing stages, Danny Law, formerly of Sussex, rubbed it in with a resounding 55.

It is surely an accurate guide to the present strength of Australian batting that they did not want Stuart Law for this summer's tour of England. He is a beautiful and unhurried stroke-maker with a lovely easy, upright method and if England's selectors could find as good a player among those they have to choose from, they would hardly be able to believe their luck.

It has to be said that the Middlesex seam bowling was either too short and wide or overpitched. Boundaries came everywhere, first as Stuart Law and Paul Prichard helped themselves to 60 in 11 overs. Although Nasser Hussain and Ronnie Irani did not stay for long, Law was irrepressible and found another good partner in Paul Grayson.

They put on 80 for the fourth wicket in only 55 balls and after they went in successive overs, Danny Law showed that there are few more powerful strikers of the ball in county cricket. He swung Paul Weekes over midwicket for six before he straight drove and pull drove Richard Johnson for two more in an over in which he scored 22. He was last out, to the final ball, bowled trying to hit Weekes for another.

Middlesex's batsmen made as little impact as their bowlers and four wickets fell in 18 balls soon after the start of their innings. In the fourth over, Weekes played forward to Mark Ilott and was caught at first slip; Jason Pooley was then yorked first ball by Ashley Cowan; Gatting cut at one from Ilott which was too far up and was caught behind and Keith Brown played on when trying to take his bat away from Cowan.

The only Middlesex batsman to make it all look remotely possible was the South African, Jacques Kallis, who opened. He plays straight with good, unfussy footwork, but he could do nothing about the carnage at the other end. He eventually went when he tried to run a short one from Irani to third man and was well caught by wicketkeeper Barry Hyam, two-handed far to his right. There was no recovery for Middlesex from 57 for 5 in the 12th over.