County round-up: Nightwatchman has his day as Rayner hits unbeaten ton
Ollie Rayner already had membership of one fairly exclusive club after scoring a hundred on his first-class debut in 2006; yesterday at Trent Bridge he joined another by making a century in an innings he began as nightwatchman as Middlesex avoided the follow-on against Nottinghamshire.
The 26-year-old off-spinner finished unbeaten on 143 as Middlesex declared at 300 for nine in reply to Notts' 423. He was dropped on 49 and 50, both difficult chances, but was otherwise impressive both technically and temperamentally, hitting 19 fours and a six.
Rayner then capped his day by bowling Alex Hales and having Graeme Swann, another nightwatchman, caught at silly point as Notts made hard work of adding to their lead.
Swann, who picked up two wickets, had bowled more impressively than his England colleague Stuart Broad, whose 21 overs for 79 suggested he was either out of sorts or bowling within himself. Broad owed his only wicket to a misjudgement by Gareth Berg and was outbowled by the left-armer Harry Gurney, who added the wickets of Dawid Malan and John Simpson to the prized scalp of Andrew Strauss claimed on Thursday evening.
While Middlesex were striving successfully to delay Strauss's last chance to find some batting form before the opening Test, Surrey could not prevent Kevin Pietersen from having two knocks in one day at New Road. Not that it was a problem to the Delhi dasher, back from his stint with the Daredevils in the Indian Premier League (305 runs in eight innings at 61.00) for a rare taste of county cricket.
Pietersen went the way of several of his colleagues in playing injudiciously outside off stump, caught behind for 11 as Surrey were bowled out for 113 in reply to Worcestershire's 285, but reappeared in the follow-on to bat at Twenty20 pace, his 69 including a sequence of boundaries that brought him 29 runs from 10 balls either side of tea. His form contrasted with a struggling Mark Ramprakash, the former England batsman now in his 43rd year, who was out without scoring twice in the day. Ramprakash has only 62 runs from eight innings this season, although this was his first pair since 1996 and only the third of his 26-year career.
Strauss is not the only England opener short of runs. At Chelmsford, where Kent recovered from nine for five to 225 all out after Darren Stevens (119) and Geraint Jones (88) shared a 194-run stand for the sixth wicket, Alastair Cook followed his nine and five against Glamorgan last week with a 15-ball one.
England's Tim Bresnan took five for 81 at Bristol, where Yorkshire forfeited an innings in return for being set 400 to win by Gloucestershire.
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