Cricket: Weekes drops anchor

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The Independent Online
Warwickshire 466 Middlesex 194-4

THE CURTAIN suddenly came down on the Brian Lara show after two overs yesterday, when he was stranded in front of his stumps to a ball that kept low. The bowler was the persistent and frugal Richard Johnson, the only Middlesex performer to take satisfaction from the home side's performance against the West Indian captain.

Lara had tempted fate by declaring his intention of batting on until he had doubled his first-class aggregate for the season with this single innings. Though he was left 194 runs short, his rehabilitation was surely complete.

Having already scored enough runs to make the game safe, Warwickshire pressed on but Neil Smith was dismissed in bizarre fashion. When Phil Tufnell came on almost an hour into the day Smith immediately went down on one knee and carted a ball destined for the midwicket boundary.

Instead it struck forward short-leg David Nash a horrid blow to the chest, turning the shot into a slowly looping catch to Paul Weekes 20 yards from the bat.

Ashley Giles and Tim Munton enjoyed themselves for another hour and then gave Warwickshire a brief grasp of the new ball before lunch.

Munton, the tall, lumbering pace bowler lost all of last season - and subsequently the captaincy - to a back injury. After just one Championship game this season he tore a hamstring. Two early wickets after David Goodchild's suicidal run out completed Munton's recuperation, and reduced Middlesex to 61 for 3.

Significantly, the wickets included that of the richly in-form Justin Langer, and the follow-on target looked days away.

While Weekes dropped a cautious anchor, Owais Shah took charge of the recovery. In his third county season but still only 19, with an England A tour under his belt, Shah has always batted beyond his years. This was a valuable liaison which Weekes continued with the acting captain, Keith Brown.

Even if a match can not be won, there are still bonus points to graft for, and Weekes ground on beyond his 50. While England capitulated there was something to be said for watching old-fashioned cussedness.