Cairns sinks Shah's hopes of a century

Nottinghamshire 361 & 48-0 Middlesex 326
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The Independent Online

This was a day when character was tested - and neither side was found wanting. Nottinghamshire belied their relegated status, steaming into Middlesex from the outset.

Perhaps they were inspired by the deeds of some of the crew members of the Royal Naval vessel HMS Nottingham, who were commended for their courage in attempting to patch up the doomed ship after she hit Wolf's Rock off the coast of Australia a year ago.

Whatever, Chris Cairns, who will probably not be at Trent Bridge next season, really got among the Middlesex batsmen, producing a beast of a ball for the captain, Andrew Strauss, who was only able to fend it off his face to present the bowler with the simplest of return catches.

Sven Koenig struggled, Ben Hutton hung around for a while, but not long enough to impose himself and likewise Ed Joyce.

But there were a couple of members of the Middlesex crew who braved it out. Owais Shah and David Nash deserve a mention in despatches, as does Paul Weekes. The former two were at the crease for three hours or more, while Weekes showed how the bowling could be smacked around a bit in an enterprising 38.

All three had to survive torrid spells when Cairns and Paul Franks intimidated, and the wily Stuart MacGill attempted to confuse and bamboozle with his leg spin. But all stuck it out at different times to keep the old ship afloat.

Shah is good, that has been acknowledged for a long time now, but yesterday he had to do more, he had to survive. He had to show character. And he did. He was hit on the helmet, lost his bat as he escaped a close run-out, and generally withstood pretty well everything, including intense pressure. It was cruel that he was denied his hundred, falling victim to Cairns, the pick of the bowlers, when 13 short.

Nash, rumoured to be joining the Middlesex Exiles, aka Somerset, took up the cudgels admirably after Shah was caught behind, scoring a defiant, unbeaten fifty. Sadly, despite the trio's efforts, they finished 35 runs adrift of Nottinghamshire on the first innings, a gap that had more than doubled by the close.