On spring pitches, batting first, the thought in a batsman's mind is always that there will be one ball, sooner or later, with his name on it. For Andrew Strauss, unfortunately, yesterday's arrived much too soon.
The England captain, without a Test century since November 2010 and worried by a lean winter that yielded a paltry two half-centuries, has three matches to play himself into form and quell the negative headlines that have begun to follow him around.
He could have done with a better start than to lose his wicket to the second ball he faced at Lord's yesterday, after Middlesex's match against Durham began following a 24-hour weather-enforced delay. But at least it was misfortune rather than error that brought about his downfall. Having shouldered arms to the first ball from Graham Onions, an erstwhile England teammate, he pushed cautiously at the second, only for it to behave just as the bowler would have fantasised as he ran in, swinging in to the left-hander before straightening off the pitch to take the top of off stump.
Two strips away is the pitch that Chris Adams, Surrey's director of cricket, described as the worst he had seen at Lord's, after his side lost last week. So this one was likely to be spicy and Middlesex are grateful to be in no worse shape than 132 for 5 after a day restricted by showers to 39.3 overs.
To that they owe much to Neil Dexter, who has temporarily given up the captaincy, in Championship matches, because of worries over his form. He was dropped on four and again on 20, albeit to a difficult chance to Ben Stokes at backward point, but then soldiered on to 65 not out, his first half-century in the competition for almost a year.
The most impressive performance, though, came from Onions, irrespective of help from the conditions. He has 3 for 24 and his case for a recall to the England side is gathering momentum.
How well would Chris Read know Strauss by now, had he not ducked under that slower-ball yorker from Chris Cairns in his second Test appearance, at Lord's in 1999? The Nottinghamshire wicketkeeper overcame the embarrassment to win 13 more caps so the error was not terminal, but there is no doubt it did lasting damage to his reputation.
Yet since his last Test appearance, when he was selected for a demoralised and defeated team in Australia in 2006, no Notts batsman has been more consistent, particularly on a Trent Bridge wicket that gives no favours.
Yesterday, as Notts were bowled out for 162 after a typical top-order collapse, Read was 104 not out. The next highest score was 10. It was his 12th hundred in five seasons, during which, even with the distractions of captaincy, he has scored more than 5,000 runs at an average of 48.49 – not bad for someone with a supposedly flawed technique.
Somerset reached 78 for 1 before rain intervened, although their captain, Marcus Trescothick, went to hospital for a scan after damaging his right ankle in the field.
Lancashire, 125 for 5 after a first day limited to 55 overs, doubled that score at Liverpool thanks to a disciplined 46 in 166 balls by Luke Procter. Glen Chapple, in more aggressive style, hit seven fours in his 44. Warwickshire were 35 for 3 in reply, England's Ian Bell going for 18 in his first innings of the season, caught behind off Chapple.
Alan Richardson, the veteran former Warwickshire seamer, continued his impressive form in taking five wickets as Surrey struggled to 123 for 7 against Worcestershire at The Oval.Reuse content