Cricket: Middlesex prove brittle in the cold

Middlesex 254 Kent 21-1
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The Independent Online
AFTER A wasted first day during which just 10 overs were achieved, although in precisely the same weather The Oval managed nearly five times as many, the Lord's season got under way with some cold and cautious cricket yesterday.

Kent, who had chosen to bowl, could perhaps take most satisfaction from an undistinguished day, although having cut Middlesex back to 194 for 7 they were frustrated by a determined repair job carried out by top-scorer David Nash and James Hewitt.

Matthew Fleming, Kent's new captain, permutated his four seam bowlers in short, warming shifts while leaving his spinner Min Patel shivering until late afternoon.

So delighted was the left-armer to be given something to do that he responded by breaking the stubborn alliance between Nash and Hewitt, gave Simon Cook a golden duck on his first-class debut, and completed a useful spell by trapping Richard Johnson.

The most impressive of the quicker men was Kent's moonlighting gynaecologist Dr Julian Thompson, preferred to Martin McCague for his ability to move the ball around on the early-season turf. It was he who accounted for the dangerous Justin Langer, a man who needs to pass 50 merely to maintain his career average.

Although Dean Headley, a yard faster than anyone else in the game, bowled with venom, it was the lateral swerve and bounce of Thompson that reaped the richest reward of four economical wickets - Langer drove too loosely, Richard Kettleborough pushed half heartedly, Paul Weekes miscued a drive that steepled into the air and Phil Tufnell dabbed timorously to point.

Kent's replacement for Carl Hooper this year is the Australian Andrew Symonds, born in Birmingham, who withdrew from an England A tour so that he could remain qualified for the country that suits his accent. Hired principally as a big-hitting batsman, his CV also offers off-spin and the muscular seam bowling that he employed yesterday. He often slipped past the bat, but without success.

Apart from the enterprise of Langer and Nash, and the lower-order biffing of Hewitt and Johnson, the Middlesex batting had the familiar hallmarks of chilly April - a tentative suspicion of pace and pitch and uncertainty of timing.

In the evening coda, Cook was compensated for his brief innings by first use of the new ball. He is sharp and straight and Ed Smith's wicket will have helped him sleep better.