Cricket: Patient Botham gets in Gatting's way

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Middlesex 259-8; Durham 260-4

Durham win by 6 wkts

YOU drive into this ground down a road called Gatting Way (keep straight on past Brearley Close) and the Middlesex captain was in a chipper mood after receiving his ICC release papers. He even cut short his lunch break to speak to the press, which, for someone who might have accepted payment in mince pies rather than krugerrands, was the ultimate sacrifice.

It is doubtful whether he was so cheerful driving back out of Gatting Way (on dipped headlights), Middlesex having been removed from the premier one-day competition in the sort of gloom that almost demanded cat's eyes down the middle of the pitch. Full marks to the umpires, though, for seeing it through. It is not often that Dickie Bird fails to flap with a full house of five lights on the scoreboard.

Gatting is in remarkable form with the bat at the moment, and Durham's victory, by six wickets with nine balls to spare, owed a lot to his dismissal for 57 in the third over after lunch. It was probably not wise for him to attempt a quick single so soon after a meal break, and he was comfortably run out by Wayne Larkins' direct hit from mid-off.

Middlesex, put in, ultimately fell around 25 short of what Gatting felt was a decent total on a slow pitch, especially as Durham were one bowler light in a department that is not regarded as their major forte.

When John Wood ran in to bowl the first delivery of the game, he could not have collapsed more spectacularly in his delivery stride had he been shot by a sniper. The Uxbridge club's response to this was equally curious, in that with everyone waiting for the arrival of a stretcher, out came a lawnmower.

The problem, apparently, was the slippery longer grass inside the crease areas on a dank morning, and Wood hobbled off with a twisted ankle - to take no further part - while the creases received a short back and sides. However, Durham kept taking wickets at important times, and the quality of Paul Parker's three catches provided further evidence that at 36, he remains one of the best fielders in the country.

Middlesex's total soon looked less vulnerable when Wayne Larkins' top-edged hook ballooned to slip in the first over, and both Durham openers would have been out for nought had Mike Roseberry not dropped John Glendenen.

Glendenen went on to make 57, but it was a fourth-wicket partnership of 123 in 26 overs between Parker (69) and Ian Botham that won the game for Durham. Botham, mindful of the lack of batting below him, made his first 17 runs in singles, but Durham have invested heavily in wise old heads, and Botham's 63 not out was beautifully judged.

Durham had lost Dean Jones for 23, leg before playing across a straight one from Angus Fraser, and Parker, a member of England's one-cap wonder club, and Botham, who may possibly have received his last, came together with 144 still required from 29 overs.

They chipped away at the target without taking too many risks, but with 61 needed from the final 10, Botham altered his plan from quiet singles to a mortar attack on the sponsored tents. Neil Williams finally got Parker, the man of the match, but by then it was too late.

(Photograph omitted)