Cricket: Sutcliffe makes sublime progress

Leicestershire 377 for 5 Middlesex 307
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The Independent Online
IAIN SUTCLIFFE has had to bat in the shadow of others for much of this season, but he came into his own here yesterday with a superlative innings of 167, the highest Championship score of his career and a piece of batting which was indeed worthy of his illustrious name.

He made the most of the opportunities offered by a mild pitch and a Middlesex attack that was, to put it politely, none too demanding until Philip Tufnell, with a thoughtful spell that started before lunch and extended beyond tea, introduced some much needed control.

By all accounts Leicestershire, not least their quicker bowlers, are somewhat miffed at not being provided with a pitch with more pace and bounce than this one; for all that, had they held their chances, particularly off Paul Weekes, who was missed three times in compiling 139, they might have dismissed Middlesex for around 200.

Theoretically it ought to have been a better day for bowling yesterday, cooler and with cloud cover. Whether the new ball would have swung or not we shall never know, for Middlesex pitched it so short that Sutcliffe and Vince Wells careered along at around six an over early on.

With the ball flying to all parts off a mixture of cuts, pulls and hooks, Tufnell was pressed into service as early as the 14th over, and, fortunately, immediately found his rhythm. It was also good to see Richard Johnson produce the odd delivery reminiscent of the bowler who burst on to the scene six years ago, but otherwise Wells and Sutcliffe did much as they liked in a partnership of 156 in 35 overs, until Wells was caught by Mark Ramprakash at mid-on.

Tufnell's solitary reward was the wicket of Ben Smith, adjudged lbw sweeping. By then he had started to straighten more than the odd ball, which might have had a bearing on the matter. Phil Simmons failed to score and Leicestershire must be concerned that he has now made only 120 runs in 14 Championship innings. Sutcliffe, though, went on sublimely, reaching three figures from 135 balls with 14 fours and a six before being caught behind.