Cricket: Mediocre Middlesex in mire

Middlesex v Leicestershire
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The Independent Online
A MIXTURE of mostly accurate medium paced bowling and some inexplicably incompetent batting has gone a long way to ensuring a result from a game that lost the first day and a third to the weather.

The way Middlesex bowled on Thursday suggested that the threat of second division cricket at Lord's next season had galvanised Mike Gatting's charges sufficiently, but yesterday their batsmen failed to follow suit, succumbing in little more than a session to Leicestershire's three-man attack, led by the Australian Test bowler Mike Kasprowicz.

The tall Queenslander is in his second spell in county cricket after spending a season with Essex five years ago. Having contributed 49 to an eighth-wicket stand of 90 with Jonathan Dakin the previous evening, yesterday Kasprowicz bowled almost half of the 40 overs it took to dismiss Middlesex, finishing with five wickets in an innings for the first time for his new county.

As on Thursday, there seemed precious little in the surface to help the bowlers but Kasprowicz and James Almond extracted what life there was and it proved more than enough for Middlesex. Ben Hutton and his fellow former Radley and Durham graduate Andy Strauss had negotiated the first six overs of the innings without apparent difficulty and resumed yesterday morning but after five overs the rot set in.

First Hutton fell leg before to Kasprowicz, getting only half-forward, and Strauss followed in the next over, caught behind off Almond. That was 31 for 2, which became 33 for 5 as Richard Kettleborough, playing back and across, and David Nash, pushing down the wrong line, were bamboozled by Kasprowicz while Almond chipped in by yorking Owis Shah with a snorter.

Paul Weeks attempted to staunch the steady flow of departing batsmen but Michael Brown failed to stay with him, offering no stroke to Kasprowicz and suddenly the follow-on looked a distinct possibility.

When Simon Cook and Jamie Hewitt were dismissed by Chris Lewis Middlesex still needed to find a run from somewhere to avoid batting again. Lewis, however, obliged with a no ball and, thanks to some lusty blows from Richard Johnson, the hosts eventually kept their deficit down to 91.

When Leicestershire batted again runs were still hard to come by, but by tea they had stretched their lead to 170, albeit for the loss of 4 wickets.