Agarkar's lightning strikes thrice for Middlesex

Gloucestershire 133-4 v Middlesex
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The Independent Online

Darkness fell early over NW8, a merciful finish to a day that ended as it had begun, with rain. It was frustrating for the thrusting young attackers of third-placed Middlesex, who had acquitted themselves well in the 45 overs permitted by the weather in this First Division Championship match.

Darkness fell early over NW8, a merciful finish to a day that ended as it had begun, with rain. It was frustrating for the thrusting young attackers of third-placed Middlesex, who had acquitted themselves well in the 45 overs permitted by the weather in this First Division Championship match.

Middlesex were without the Australian paceman Glenn McGrath, who must sit out this match, and there was still no Chad Keegan. After the early departure of Craig Spearman it took the home side a while to make further inroads. But by the stormy close, second-placed Gloucestershire were in trouble, having found themselves on the wrong end of a telling spell by the stand-in overseas bowler Ajit Agarkar.

The action on the pitch, after a delayed start which cost four overs, veered between uninspiring and dull. The real drama was provided by the two thunderstorms, when the heavens unleashed volleys of lightning bolts.

The heavy rain that accompanied the thunder and lightning the first time drove everyone off for more than two hours, a break that cost 30 overs, and when the players re-emerged, Gloucestershire were jolted by Agarkar's version of a lightning strike when he conjured up some reverse swing and bowled Alex Gidman with a leg-stump yorker, second ball after the restart.

That wrapped up a spell of 3 for 9 off 19 balls, which had begun with the dismissal of the Australian Mike Hussey, who had resembled an immovable object while he and the human limpet Philip Weston chiselled out a stand of 79 for the second wicket in 25 dour overs.

Hussey, who scored almost 1,700 runs for Northamptonshire in the Championship last season in just 14 matches, emulated the admirable Weston and got his head down and grafted for an hour and three-quarters.

The Aussie left-hander took a liking to the left-armer Paul Hutchison, pulling him for four to take Gloucestershire past 50, then hoisting him over long leg for six to bring up his side's 100.

Shortly afterwards, though, he drove Agarkar's fourth ball of his second spell straight to Sven Koenig at cover and departed. When the Gloucestershire captain, Chris Taylor, unwisely shouldered arms to the Indian paceman just before the storm struck, his side looked wobbly and they were positively shaken when Gidman went after the break.

Shortly after that came the second torrential storm that wrapped it up for the day.

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