Hooper revels in speedy charge to summit

Lancashire 734-5dec Middlesex 156-1

Lancashire constructed cricket's equivalent of Everest yesterday as Carl Hooper and Stuart Law piled a mountain of runs on to the impressive foundations that had been laid by century-makers Mal Loye and Mark Chilton the day before.

And within an hour of beginning their reply Middlesex knew that they had a stiff climb on their hands when they lost Sven Koenig, snapped up at short leg off Chris Schofield's second over on the stroke of tea.

On a day littered with records it left the 583 runs Middlesex need to avoid following on looking as remote as Mars.

It was the highest first-class innings score on this ground and Lancashire's third highest total. It was also the highest total in the Championship this season beating Surrey's 693 set last week as well as Lancashire's highest against Middlesex, surpassing the 565 they ran up in May.

In matching Loye and Chilton by scoring centuries, Law and Hooper helped cement their place in Old Trafford history. Not since 1904 had four batsmen scored centuries in the same innings.

But the modern-day heroes went one batter than Archie MacLaren, JT "Johnny" Tyldesley, AH "Albert" Hornby and Willis Cuttell, because 99 years ago not one of this illustrious gang of four passed two hundred. Yesterday, Hooper did just that. It was his third double hundred in championship cricket, the 64th first-class century of his career and it was enthralling to watch.

He put the technique into pyrotechnics as he blasted his way to his double century at better than a run a ball. If Hooper did disappoint in any way it was that he managed only 11 sixes - one short of the record set by Graham Lloyd against Essex at Chelmsford in 1996.

A couple of his sixes sailed outrageously over extra cover and, for good measure, there were a further 15 boundaries in an innings that lasted a rivetting four and a half hours.

Hooper and Law put on 282 runs, a record for any wicket against Middlesex, beating the 264 earlier this season between Chilton and Law at Lord's, before the Australian was run out to a brilliant throw by Chad Keegan immediately after lunch.

By then Law had amassed 144 runs of his own - the 61st hundred of his career and his fifth Championship century of the season. When Hooper fell, to a catch in the deep, Lancashire delayed a declaration to allow Schofield to reach his fifty.

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