Cricket: Lewis runs into form

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The Independent Online
Nottinghamshire 350-7 dec

Middlesex 52-0

A NEAR-PERFECT century by Chris Lewis, his second of the season, boosted Nottinghamshire's chances of collecting the runners-up cheque in the County Championship. To achieve this, they need to win this match and hope Lancashire prevent a Leicestershire win. But a result here will probably require the collusion of their opponents Middlesex, themselves in sight of second place.

Lewis has been in rare form of late. His last seven Championship innings have realised 598 runs, at an average of just under 200. Unhindered by Test cricket this summer, his performances with bat and ball have been impressive and he tops both sets of his county's averages.

Lewis has always been one of those players whose abundance of raw talent has thrust him to the fore. While less gifted individuals learn to make their limitations work for them, Lewis has been unable to pinpoint a reason for his fallibility. He may be forever stuck in limbo; too good for county cricket, never consistently good enough for Tests.

Lewis was at his enigmatic best with the bat yesterday, his sweet striking a joy to behold on a joyless day, as the Middlesex bowling was silkily dispatched to all parts of the ground.

If the runners-up cheque of nearly pounds 25,000 was what motivated Lewis, its appeal to Middlesex seemed more muted. It was understandable that with the Championship long gone to Edgbaston, the bowling and fielding were less than frenetic.

Only Angus Fraser, another snubbed by the England selectors, looked dangerous on the slow surface. With the wind behind him - something he rarely gets the chance to exploit when Phillip DeFreitas is his team-mate - and pushing him to the crease, Fraser removed both Greg Mike and Paul Johnson in the same spell.

The only other bowling success came when John Emburey caused the left-handed Matthew Dowman to play on for 38. Wayne Noon then joined Lewis to take Nottinghamshire on to full batting points before Robinson declared at 350 for seven with Lewis unbeaten on 108. The ball was now in Middlesex's court, making the decision to come off for bad light with hardly a ball bowled even more perplexing. When play resumed, the Middlesex openers then crawled to 52 by the close. Only a double declaration tomorrow will give either side any hope of winning this match, and with it the chance to come second, pipping Leicester, who now look unlikly to win.

(Photograph omitted)