Langer labours in vain for Middlesex

The one certainty of Middlesex's first opportunity to get out to the middle in this competition after four previous attempts had ended in sodden misery, was that they had no further interest in proceedings.

But celebrations of Kent's solitary victory in this rainruined competition were understandably muted since at 5.36pm, when Middlesex's last man Phil Tufnell played on a Mark Ealham delivery, no one knew whether they had done enough in finishing fourth in their group to qualify for the quarter-final stages. As twilight closed in, it was not for another hour before they learnt their fate, which was sealed by Gloucestershire's victory over Somerset.

It had been a patchy performance by the home team. Kent's bowling was certainly more spectacular than their batting. Apart from the Gold Award winner, Paul Nixon, who top-scored with 37 and then went on to claim four catches behind the stumps, and a typically obdurate knock from Alan Wells, there was little to cheer home fans on a chill day.

But the bowling did offer something - in particular the lean frame of the seamer James Golding, who accounted for three Middlesex wickets at an economical cost of 20 runs.

The England all-rounder Mark Ealham went one better. He had begun the Middlesex rot when he had an uncertain Owais Shah leg-before off the fourth delivery of the day, and added Mark Ramprakash and James Hewitt to his tally before wrapping things up with the symmetry of Tufnell's wicket.

Considering that Ben Phillips missed last season with what was thought to be a shoulder injury, but was later diagnosed as a broken collarbone, his 2-25 was commendable.

But, however hard-working the Kent attack was, no one could do anything about the Middlesex captain Justin Langer. His winter with Australia and his state Western Australia was laden with runs and yesterday's unbeaten innings revealed that the seam was still rich.

The left-hander worked the bowling as he wanted and it was evident that all that was required was for someone to stick with him. It was Middlesex's misfortune that no one did. And Langer's innings, which lasted for a solid two hours and 24 minutes, was ultimately a wasted effort.

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