Cricket: Middlesex on the slippery slope

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The Independent Online
Warwickshire v Middlesex

LAST WEEKEND, Edgbaston was awash with colour as jubilant Indians celebrated victory over England. Since then it has merely been awash, in common with much of Birmingham, where almost three inches of rain has fallen in as many days. At the height of the heaviest storm, water burst into a stockroom at the club shop and flooded a function room to a depth of 18 inches.

Until yesterday, this match had been limited to 13 overs on the second day. More rain overnight affected the bowlers' run-ups and the pitch itself, which had a noticeably dark band across the middle.

But it was not raining at the scheduled start time and did not rain before play began at four o'clock, leaving groundsman Steve Rouse to mutter darkly about the regulatory wisdom from Lord's that has banned the use of flat- sheet covers, including Edgbaston's match-saving Brumbrella.

"If we had been able to use it overnight we could have started on time," Rouse said. Instead, the mechanically-operated cover, which protects a 40-yard width of the playing area, has to be rolled up 48 hours before a Championship match begins and remain so throughout, even outside the hours of play. Denied its use, Rouse has also been set back in his preparations for next Thursday's World Cup match between South Africa and New Zealand.

After one more stoppage yesterday, Warwickshire enjoyed the best of things as Middlesex, 28 for 1 overnight, slipped to 93 for 4. The seamer Graeme Welch inflicted the damage as Mark Ramprakash was caught at the wicket, Owais Shah was bowled offering no stroke and Justin Langer took his run haul for the season past 600 before giving a catch off bat and pad to forward short-leg.

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