Middlesex 148-3 v Lancashire: Lancashire's day of frustration at hands of Shah and weather

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The Independent Online

Most batsmen have a favourite ground and it is seldom anything to do with the architectural splendour of the pavilion or the peal of cathedral bells heralding evensong. Old Trafford can be depressingly bleak, especially under the kind of leaden sky that truncated yesterday's play, but Owais Shah's affection for the place was not dampened a bit.

Less than 24 hours after scoring an unbeaten 125 here to lead his team to victory in the Pro40 League, the 29-year-old Middlesex batsman had added a further 73 on the first day of a Championship fixture of equal importance to both sides when heavy rain forced play to be abandoned with 45 overs lost.

Shah has an impressive record here, his seven previous first-class innings yielding 346 runs at an average of 69, including 147 in 2003. That came in a contest that produced seven centuries, an aggregate of more than 1,500 runs and saw Lancashire register their biggest score on this ground of 734 for 5 declared.

There would have been little prospect of figures on that scale being challenged even with uninterrupted play after Middlesex plodded to 148-3 at under two and a half runs per over. The pitch, while on the slow side, does not seem to warrant particular suspicion and there seemed no obvious explanation for such pedestrian progress, save perhaps for their position in the table.

Middlesex are at the foot of the First Division table with four matches left, but their fate is by no means sealed. Only four points cover the bottom three sides, of which only two will be relegated. A win at this stage would be a massive fillip but a draw against the current leaders is not a bad consolation.

Lancashire, meanwhile, will have left the field frustrated, more so in the knowledge of Durham's feeble reply against second-placed Sussex at Hove. Asked to field first, they gained early encouragement when Ed Smith fell to Kyle Hogg in the 10th over but then ran into a grimly obdurate Nick Compton, who took two and a half hours making 21, facing 86 balls before he even reached double figures, perversely with a four. Ed Joyce's considerably brisker 32 ended with a clip straight to square leg.

* Lancashire expect to complete the signing of the Indian bowler Murali Kartik within the next few days. The 29-year-old left-arm spinner, earmarked to replace Brad Hodge as the county's second overseas player, took 16 wickets in two matches to help Lancashire win promotion after arriving at a similarly late stage last season.

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