Cricket: Simmons on the attack

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The Independent Online
Middlesex 180-8 Leicestershire 181-3 Leics win by seven wickets

Adjusting to the vagaries of this slow and grudging pitch was beyond the chosen few who possessed expert timing. Phil Simmons headed the master class with the innings that toppled Middlesex, the leaders, with six overs to spare.

Simmons, the West Indies Test all-rounder who had just returned his best limited-overs figures of 5 for 37, made 92 not out at a run a ball, with nine fours to highlight a wayward attack. Middlesex know Simmons well after he scored 140 two seasons ago in his only other innings against them in the competition.

That day, Simmons shared a Leicestershire Sunday record second-wicket partnership of 241 with Vince Wells. His latest triumph will become just as memorable because he simply eliminated Middlesex from a game which they had high hopes of winning. He has amassed 448 Sunday runs this summer and averages 64.

Middlesex's total, albeit below 200, looked competitive on a pitch used last month for a NatWest Trophy match. The ball "stopped" and kept low, causing them trouble. Their best partnership was 65 in 17 overs between Mark Ramprakash and John Carr.

Middlesex had needed much redemption from 44 for 3. Simmons prompted Paul Weekes to play on, took a lobbed return catch from Mike Gatting, and yorked Jason Pooley first ball.

Leicestershire were put under little pressure. James Whitaker joined Simmons in a partnership of 64 in 12 overs before the bombardment from Simmons and Gregor MacMillan, who finished the game with a four and a straight six from Peter Wellings, emphasising the earlier struggle of the Middlesex spinners Phil Tufnell and Weekes.

The belief that MacMillan had shaped his innings to help Simmons reach a century was abruptly cast aside. MacMillan, an Oxford Blue whose timing was precise, simply could not resist the final juicy offerings provided by Wellings.

If beaten, Leicestershire could have thrashed out an inquest about their lamentable concession of extras. They gave away 36, compared with six by Middlesex. A total of 20 wides and nine no-balls could be added to their 42 extras conceded in the NatWest Trophy defeat by Sussex last Wednesday. That total included 20 wides and 10 no-balls.