Cricket: Only Langer will linger in memory

Middlesex 254 & 381-4 Kent 286 Match drawn
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The Independent Online
JUSTIN LANGER began his visit to the West Indies earlier this year with a century against the host's A side and finished it with a 100 in the final Test. The contrast between Antigua and a frozen, rainwashed Lord's earlier this week called for a cautious start to his county season, and he compiled a careful half-century on Wednesday. By yesterday, however, he had felt the pace of the pitch.

This was his fifth three-figure score as a Middlesex mercenary, and it is a measure of his diligence that on all but one of those occasions the Australian has progressed beyond 150, twice passed 200. He is not a flashy player, but waits to deliver a jack-hammer blow to the half-volley and lazy short delivery, or to sweep the misdirected ball just backward of square. His sixes did not just clear the rope, they rattled the upper tiers of the gleaming stands.

Kent will reflect that you simply cannot give a man of this class a second, let alone a third chance - though by the time of the later error when the substitute fielder Martin McCague spilled a slip catch off Matthew Fleming, Langer was on 133 and the game was dead as a contest. The first snick through diving fielders, however, came when Langer had added just a single to his overnight 14.

Because all but 10 overs of the first day were lost it took until 4.40pm on Thursday for Kent to achieve parity with Middlesex's modest 254. That might have been the time for Fleming in his first Championship match as Kent's captain to declare. The adjustment to the points system this year, however, has an inevitable drawback that balances the incentive it is designed to offer. By giving four rather than three points for a draw, the main intention is to stiffen the resolve of an underdog side, giving them greater encouragement to deny victory. But the commensurate reduction from 16 to 12 points for a win may stifle the impulse of both captains to agree to a gamble in a balanced game.

Last year Langer scored the season's first double-century. This year had made the earliest in Championship history. The game may soon be forgotten but memories of Langer will linger longer.

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