Cricket: Middlesex pay for profligacy

NATWEST TROPHY: Hemp's career-best inspires Warwickshire but Johnson's century is in vain Warwickshire 286-6 Middlesex 258-9 Warwickshire win by 28 runs
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The sun may have shone, but Lord's has never been a kind mistress to her own, particularly if they choose to squander her bounties, which on this occasion included a uneven pitch.

Middlesex, who won the toss, fielded and bowled dreadfully, conceding 25 no-balls and wides. In the end, despite a career-best 112 by Warwickshire's David Hemp, it proved to be the decisive factor, and Angus Fraser and his colleagues will be kicking themselves for their wastefulness.

Needing 287 to win, Middlesex never looked to be within loud-hailing distance of their visitors' total, particularly after the early loss of Jacques Kallis and Paul Weekes. But that was before Mark Ramprakash, the country's man in form, had played his part.

Combining first with Jason Pooley and then with Keith Brown (50 from 54 balls), Ramprakash's score of 98 proved be one of the great match-winning knocks that never was.

The Middlesex captain has been in rare form this season and he struck the ball with savage power as Middlesex, needing 91 from 10 overs, chased improbable victory.

They got close, too, ending 25 runs short, but the chase effectively ended when Brown and Ramprakash fell in quick succession, the latter to a brilliant running catch at mid-off by Trevor Penney, who also achieved a run-out from cover point when his direct hit found Owais Shah stranded yards short of his ground.

These days, Warwickshire are a well-drilled team. The innovations of the Dermot Reeve years have worn off and, apart from Allan Donald's introduction as a second change bowler, they settled for percentage cricket. A gambit that paid off here, with Ashley Giles, whose steady spell of 3 for 14 in four overs at the death secured the game.

When they batted, Warwickshire had to overcome the early loss of their acting one-day captain, Neil Smith, after Fraser had found the edge in the first over. Apart from a couple of nasty blows to Andy Moles' nether regions - a clearly painful interlude that caused the game to be held up for 10 minutes - the visiting team were rarely inconvenienced as Hemp, batting with supreme authority and watchfulness, went about his century.

The Bermudan born Hemp, now 27, joined Warwickshire from Glamorgan this season. With their other left-hander, Nick Knight, still nursing a broken knuckle, Warwickshire will have been grateful for his powerful off-side play on a day when run-scoring was rarely straightforward.

Standing tall at the crease, he took early toll of Jacques Kallis and Jamie Hewitt, who both gave him the necessary width outside off-stump to drive the ball through extra-cover on a regular basis.

Sharing stands of 129 with Dominic Ostler, who made 82, and with Penney, who contributed 45, Hemp batted for 56 overs to provide a steady run flow and allow the more extravagant strokeplayers to strut their stuff. Penney, in particular, played a marvelous cameo, as he swung the bat furiously towards the end. On another day, when combined with his brilliant fielding, he could easily have won the man of the match. Unsurprisingly, that went to Hemp.

With the Middlesex bowlers' unforced errors greatly helping their cause, Warwickshire are now within one match of a Lord's final - an occasion they only recently stopped taking for granted.