Cricket: Somerset's Andy gap

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The Independent Online
Somerset. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .318-9 and 37-0

Middlesex . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .301-8 dec

IF ANDY CADDICK is not included in the England side for the third Test there will be disappointment in Somerset but perhaps also a small measure of relief. Yesterday, it was evident they are still learning to live without him as Mark Ramprakash ushered Middlesex away from danger.

Somerset just about had the better of a slow day here, forcing Middlesex to work for their bonus points, but on a pitch lacking pace and of inconsistent bounce, they needed the type of dramatic intervention Caddick made in their three championship wins this season to force the issue. Middlesex, who resumed at a precarious 24-2, did not lose a wicket until 10 minutes before lunch, after a stand of 101 between Ramprakash and John Carr, and the die was cast once Keith Brown was established as Ramprakash's partner.

The outcome is likely to hinge on a declaration from Chris Tavare tomorrow. It will be a scramble redolent of a three-day match when, with Middlesex chasing, maybe Mushtaq Ahmed will come into his own.

Yesterday morning it was not Mushtaq to whom Tavare turned after 50 minutes, or Neil Mallender, whose two Test appearances seem more distant than a year ago, who ensured that Somerset made progress, but Jason Kerr, a tall 19-year-old seamer enjoying a useful first season. He had Carr, whose early watchfulness had given way to some crisp legside strokes, caught in the gully and, with his next ball, Robin Sims leg before. Kerr later took the prize scalp of Ramprakash.

Sims would be excused a jaundiced view of his championship cricket just now. In his second match, this was his first innings. Last week he spent four days at Gateshead Fell doing little else but watching the rain. Now umpire Sharp's raised finger followed his tentative push forward.

There was a sense of purpose about Ramprakash, who coped with the vagaries of the pitch and played Mushtaq well. Somerset at least bowled straight, restricting Ramprakash to seven fours in a stay of just over four hours. The best of them were off a half-volley from Andre Van Troost, which was lashed past point and an early hook off Mallender, played with utmost certainty.

The rest was composed defence with a push here and a nudge there. Initially, at least, Mushtaq demanded most attention and Van Troost commanded respect, but Ramprakash was unperturbed by the Dutchman's pace and bounce. In the light of England's travails, such lengthy defensive innings should not be decried.

Brown offered a jaunty contrast, rarely missing an opportunity to sweep Mushtaq and dominating a stand of 61 before he was leg before aiming to hit Graham Rose through mid-wicket. The middle order, with Paul Weekes prominent, picked up the theme. Rose also picked up the wicket of John Emburey, courtesy of a fine one-handed catch by Neil Burns, the wicketkeeper.