Middlesex roll to easy draw

Middx 437 and 353-6 dec Surrey 460 (Match drawn)
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The only dicing being done by Middlesex players yesterday was in the safety of the home dressing-room - evidence of that being the tumbling of the dice from their balcony on to the ground-floor seating of the Pavilion shortly before tea.

A spectator managed to lob the item back on to the players' balcony without too much bother, which was also how Middlesex dealt with an out-of-sorts Surrey attack, which failed miserably to conjure up anything remotely resembling a contest.

The Brown Hats' mood was further darkened with the news that Mark Ramprakash, the acting captain, had joined Mark Butcher, the official leader, on the injury list.

Former Middlesex man Ramprakash appeared at headquarters with his fractured right thumb in a cast. He will be out of action for at least two weeks, an absence which will be felt by Surrey when they travel to Hampshire for their next Championship fixture on Wednesday.

There was a relentlessness to the progress made by Middlesex through the long day, set up by the fruitful third-wicket partnership between the Steady Eddies - alias Ed Smith and Ed Joyce.

The pair of them were in complete control either side of lunch, driving their way to a century stand and a stake into the heart of Surrey's hopes of victory. Long before the finish there was more than enough distance between Middlesex and defeat to allow home fans to breathe a sigh of relief, and in some cases to leave the ground early.

The only blemish on the Middlesex performance was that neither Smith nor Joyce was able to stay in long enough to turn all their hard work into three figures. While the opener Smith's three-hour innings saw him to his highest score for Middlesex - 88 - that will have been of little consolation to him, on a day and a pitch when a hundred looked to be there for the taking. Sadly, given how controlled his driving had been, a somewhat loose drive proved his undoing, when he edged Dominic Thornely to the keeper, Jon Batty.

That was the temporary overseas signing Thornely's second victim. His maiden Championship wicket came a lot earlier, before lunch in fact, when he accounted for Owais Shah mid-morning, a moment when Surrey hopes of something better than a draw flickered briefly, particularly since the Middlesex captain, Ben Hutton, had already gone, caught by Alistair Brown off Jimmy Ormond.

Joyce fell before Smith, leg before wicket to the Indian Test off-spinner Harbhajan Singh, who was as disappointing as the rest of the Surrey attack, although Ormond and Martin Bicknell did whip out Jamie Dalrymple and Scott Styris in rapid succession after tea. But that was pretty much that, and the match withered into a draw.

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