Any lingering doubts over the state of Nasser Hussain's fitness for this week's second Test against Pakistan at Headingley were dispelled yesterday as he hammered his highest Sunday League score of the summer.
It was all in vain, though, as Essex, in a tense finale when 11 runs were needed off the last over, tumbled to their fifth successive defeat in the 40-over competition to remain, humiliatingly, one place above the bottom side Durham.
Tight bowling from Keith Dutch (2 for 23), Paul Weekes and Richard Johnson at the death frustrated all Essex attempts to earn victory once Hussain had fallen, bowled by Dutch's seemingly innocuous off breaks.
Weekes was the hero of the hour with a career-best-equalling 4 for 29, two of those wickets coming in the final over. Hussain found little real support once Darren Robinson had departed. The captain, Paul Prichard, did fling the bat but not for long.
There was an abundance of sixes in the match, largely due to the proximity of the boundary on the Grandstand side of the ground. Hussain's innings, which was his first Sunday half-century of the season, contained four - one of which had spectators scrabbling around in the upper tier of the Grandstand looking for the ball. And Jason Pooley's lively half-century during the Middlesex innings included a couple of huge ones.
One was a real smash hit, and did not need the short boundary. It broke the office window of the MCC assistant secretary, John Jameson. And the players did not get their ball back.
The left-hander Pooley had earlier shared in a third-wicket stand of 96 in 76 balls with the acting captain, John Carr, which restored Middlesex fortunes after they had subsided to 41 for 2.
But Carr was the first of four batsmen to depart in the space of six overs and it was left to Keith Brown and James Hewitt with an unbroken partnership of 55 to take Middlesex into the realms of respectability.
Stuart Law was the pick of the Essex bowlers with a Sunday best 4 for 40. In contrast poor Paul Grayson came in for some stick with his eight overs costing 59 runs. The Essex attack had been shorn of the services of Ronnie Irani, who was rested, and he watched his team-mates from the stand on the day he was restored to the Test squad.Reuse content