Cricket: Man in the middle: Batting with a positive bloom: Mike Roseberry

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The Independent Online
THERE are those who still bemoan the introduction of the overseas star cricketer to the county scene. 'Keeping one of our own lads out,' is the politest of the justifications. Few paying customers would agree - we have enjoyed Viv Richards and Gordon Greenidge, Richard Hadlee and Malcolm Marshall as a regular part of the English summer, and not just as mysterious names glimpsed a handful of times in a decade.

And when he is batting with Desmond Haynes, cementing one of the country's more formidable opening partnerships, Mike Roseberry is not likely to agree either. Last season, when Haynes was touring with the West Indies, Roseberry did a perfectly acceptable job for his county, but nothing more. He scored 1,222 Championship runs at an average of 33.02. This season has proved far more than simply acceptable - the midweek chart showed that he had collected 1,667 first-class runs (second only to the prolific Peter Bowler), with more centuries than anyone else (eight), at a plush average of 64.11.

'I've not really worked on anything specific,' Roseberry says. 'I did a lot of fitness training in the winter, which helped. But then, I always do. The one thing I feel has helped my batting this year is that Desmond is back in the side. Last year I played much more negatively. But he is such a huge influence. Not just on me - he helps everyone. Mark Ramprakash will confirm that. He keeps talking a lot, during the innings as well as off the field. A great asset - maybe with Desmond at the other end I simply relax and play better.'

In Championship cricket Middlesex are in with the pack in pursuit of Essex. It is to Sundays that they must turn for most comfort. Until Hampshire ended their extraordinary and recordbreaking run two weeks ago, Middlesex had won all 12 of their League matches. A further win against their closest rivals Essex last week keeps them three ahead of the field.

'Obviously there's a certain amount of luck in limited-over matches,' Roseberry admits, 'and we've had a little bit of it. But we have put together a series of good performances. It had got to the stage when we caught ourselves expecting to lose - not because we were doing badly, but because you know a run like that has to end some time.' It took so long to end, in fact, that the Sunday League trophy could be theirs tonight.

Roseberry, 25, is from Houghton-le-Spring in County Durham, and so the eighth of his first-class centuries was a significant one - 173, followed by 81 in the second innings - assisting Middlesex to a much-needed win against his home county three weeks ago. It was just the third victory of the Championship season. 'We don't feel we've been playing badly during the week,' he says, 'but too often we haven't managed to finish things off on the last day.'

I wondered if Durham's new status had tempted him to return home. 'Not at all. I'm under contract to Middlesex. At the same time I'm delighted it's happened, and I'm interested in what's going on - my father is very involved with the club, and that's where my home is.'

Desmond Haynes apart, Roseberry can only think of one other reason for the flowering of his batting this year. 'Happy family life. We've just had a little baby girl. Yes, that must be it]'

(Photograph omitted)