The blow that Middlesex struck yesterday was not exactly mortal, but it was certainly a defiant gesture for England and for county cricket with this trouncing of the Australians courtesy of a commendable one-day performance.
The tourists were never allowed to get away and had it not been for Ian Harvey, the Gloucestershire all-rounder, who was drafted in specifically for the forthcoming triangular one-day tournament before returning to the Shires to finish the county season, the Australians would have been in a right old mess.
Defeat is not exactly going to leave the Australians distraught, in fact it is more likely to act as a timely kick up the backside and spur them on to better things, but it was still good to see some red-blooded Englishmen of the calibre of Ben Hutton and Simon Cook doing their thing for their county.
Hutton, who was the top scorer with 73, shared in a critical second wicket partnership with the prodigiously talented Owais Shah. The pair of them hammered an Australian attack boasting leg spinner Shane Warne, paceman Jason Gillespie, as well as the aforementioned Harvey for a total of 113 runs in their stand. Shah was finally outfoxed by the wiles of Warne, and was stumped well out of his ground, but not before he had hit a sparkling half century. Hutton looked as if he would go on and on, and he probably would have, had it not been for a fluke dismissal, Robin Weston's straight drive was deflected by the bowler Damien Martyn onto the stumps.
There then followed a carefree knock from Simon Cook, a promising all-rounder, before Weston and Mike Roseberry steered them home with almost three overs to spare.
The batting had matched the bowling. Shorn of Phil Tufnell, who was to have captained the side until he pulled out yesterday morning, new ball bowler Tim Bloomfield and their overseas player Stephen Fleming of New Zealand, and including Tom Hunt for his senior debut, not many gave the home side a chance.
But inspired by stand-in captain Paul Weekes, who got the ball rolling with a well-judged catch to dismiss Matthew Hayden and took a second to account for the Australian captain Steve Waugh before claiming three wickets of his own with his off-spin, the makeshift side played like a band of veterans.
There was the little matter of Ricky Ponting's 47-ball fifty which included an astonishing 12 boundaries and Harvey's more calculated 84, off just 65 balls, but in the end, they proved to be mere bagatelles for Middlesex as they romped to victory.Reuse content