Nash's catches turn tables on slipshod Essex

Middlesex 363 Essex 95-8
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The Independent Online

The previous week Essex had viewed the upside of things as they ruthlessly cut down Nottinghamshire for 79. Yesterday they discovered the downside as their first innings reply was reduced to so much rubble by the end of a long day at Lord's.

The Essex effort, or rather lack of it, raised the value of Ben Hutton's diligent hundred for Middlesex to hitherto unheard of heights. The visitors' unravelling began in two overs of mayhem with Will Jefferson, Paul Grayson and Darren Robinson all back in the dressing room, David Nash having caught all three - the first a brilliant effort which saw the wicketkeeper leaping to his left to take the ball one-handed after Jefferson gloved an attempted hook. Grayson fell pushing at his first ball from the same bowler, Ashley Noffke, and Robinson carved at a Chad Keegan tempter.

Much was expected of Essex's next man, Andy Flower, the former Zimbabwe batsman, who just a year ago was the world's leading Test batsman. Not here though. He drove carelessly at the 14th ball of his innings and Nash again clung onto the catch to give Keegan his second wicket.

Abdul Razzaq then got one to nip back at Aftab Habib and James Foster flashed at Simon Cook to give third slip Owais Shah a fine catch. That sparked a remarkable spell for Cook which saw him claim three runless wickets in 27 balls, as he added Jon Dakin and James Middlebrook to his collection.

Essex were now 78-8 and it needed some nervy lower-order jabbing and jousting by Ravinder Bopara and Graham Napier to finally thwart the home bowlers.

At least Dakin had the consolation of claiming the first five-wicket haul of his career with the prized scalps of Hutton and Razzaq when Middlesex were pushing on to 363, their highest first innings total of the season.

That they did so was thanks chiefly to Hutton and Razzaq, who picked up where they had left off the previous evening and turned their overnight fifth wicket stand of 26 into a sound 103, the Pakistani all-rounder contributing a useful 54.

For Hutton it was a minor personal triumph too. This the fifth century of his career was arrived at in the 52nd match of his first-class career - father Richard's five hundreds were contained in a career spanning 281 matches. The young pup shows promise, although he has some way to go to match his grandad, Sir Len - a further 124 centuries to be precise.