Koenig leaves Lancashire spinners feeling sore

Middlesex 323-5 v Lancashire
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The Independent Online

Clearly it is Middlesex Openers' Week. After Andrew Strauss' heroics in the Test match it was the turn of his county opening partner, Sven Koenig, who was averaging 16 up until this match and was in danger of being dropped, to block the Championship favourites and re-affirm, through a long, hot, dusty day, that Middlesex, too, are contenders.

Clearly it is Middlesex Openers' Week. After Andrew Strauss' heroics in the Test match it was the turn of his county opening partner, Sven Koenig, who was averaging 16 up until this match and was in danger of being dropped, to block the Championship favourites and re-affirm, through a long, hot, dusty day, that Middlesex, too, are contenders.

Koenig finished unbeaten on a career-best 170 to cause a few glasses to be raised in his native Durban tonight.

Middlesex took the precaution of having their coach John Emburey inspect the pitch on Monday afternoon, a wise move after the annihilation of Worcestershire in the previous match. Owais Shah (playing because Strauss is being rested by England) was smart enough to win the toss and bat first on an altogether drier surface that gave little or no help, under a clear sky, to the quicker bowlers.

Koenig, aided by a watchful Ben Hutton, needed only 68 balls to reach his first 50. But after only 22 overs Gary Keedy appeared and that set the pattern for the day. Old Trafford is the new Kingdom of Spin.

Keedy began with 16 overs off the reel from the Statham End, tempting Hutton into giving a nimbly-taken catch at deed mid-wicket when the openers were eight short of a century stand.

Koenig, looking as grittily determined as Gary Kirsten, took 84 balls off his second 50 but brought up his 100 by hoisting Keedy for a spectacular six over long on.

At 115 he was missed at first slip off James Anderson, an over after the fast bowler had pinned Paul Weekes. His third 50 needed 110 balls and if the ball sometimes finished in unexpected places as partners came and went, Koenig himself remained as imperturbable as the Drakensberg.

With Peter Martin absent for a minor knee operation and Dominic Cork rested, Lancashire looked a bowler short almost all day and if this turns out to be a hot, dry summer then another spinner will be needed, perhaps Chris Schofield or Gary Yates being recalled from the second Xl. Otherwise Keedy and Carl Hooper, who occasionally appeared in tandem, will be sporting very sore fingers.

But so confident was Warren Hegg of his spinners that he delayed taking the new ball for 10 overs, although by then Koenig had found an equally obstructive partner in David Nash, and a tickled single off Anderson took him past his previous career-best of 166 last year.

By the close - and they managed 110 overs in the day - Keedy was back bowling again.

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