Cricket: Lord's fails the test

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The Independent Online
Leicestershire 280 & 462-7

Middlesex 395 Match drawn

They had a dose of French cricket weather here on Friday night: that chucking-it-down kind of rain that the French, so the weathermen tell us, specialise in. Perhaps they sent it over to flatten the champagne cricket being played by England at Edgbaston.

It obviously met its match at Waterloo because play started on time at The Oval. But, in spite of the Wellington Road running along one side of Lord's, the French and their rain got the better of the MCC groundstaff.

The consequence was the loss of the morning session and with it any prospects of either side forcing a win. Actually, it is probably not quite correct to say the morning session was lost. The umpires could see where it was supposed to be; they just didn't appear to want to do anything with it. Not surprisingly, given that the Test strip and its surrounds had been left uncovered overnight, the surface of the square was thought too greasy for play to start on time, even though it had not rained for a good many hours.

What was even more irritating was the virtual absence of the MCC groundstaff. Had this been a Test match they would have been running about in natty tracksuits as busy as little bees getting the ground ready for play. Yesterday they were as much use as eunuchs in a seraglio and we didn't see a ball until after lunch.

Vince Wells saw 27 of them before moving off his overnight 76 not out, and a couple of thunderous fours off Richard Johnson showed it had been worth the waiting. Johnson gave Middlesex a useful start by bowling the nightwatchman Adrian Pierson in the second over, but Leicestershire's captain, James Whitaker, then accompanied Wells to his second Championship century in successive matches.

It took Wells five and threequarter hours (286 balls) and arrived with his 11th four. By contrast his next hundred came off 97 balls, whereupon he rattled past his previous best of 204, made against Northamptonshire last season. His 224 included sixes over long-off and mid-wicket off Mike Gatting and 28 fours, but by then it was little more than one for the books.

As Darren Maddy said when discussing his exciting century in a 173-run stand with Wells on Friday, the pitch here has become flatter and easier. Even without losing time yesterday morning, it is mighty hard to see how either side would have won. But for Leicestershire's 23-year-old opener, the match was personally memorable. "To score a hundred is fantastic," said Maddy, "but to score one at Lord's in a first-class game is a privilege and something I won't forget. Hopefully my next one will be in a Test match."

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