Shah century brings calm before storm

Gloucestershire 347 & 12-0 Middlesex 253-8dec
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A surprising declaration by Middlesex could yet produce an exciting outcome to this match, which for the first three days had looked destined for a draw courtesy of the weather and yet more pedestrian cricket for much of yesterday.

If Middlesex emerge with the honours then much of the credit should go to Owais Shah, who nursed his side through some awkward sessions on his way to three figures. Sadly his five-hour stay was ended eight balls after play resumed in the evening following a two-hour stoppage for rain, when the New Zealander James Franklin had him lbw, but Shah's century, only his second of the season, was a vital element in the Middlesex fightback.

He shared a crucial partnership with David Nash worth 139 runs - a record for the seventh wicket against Gloucestershire. But until those two had come together, the follow-on was a looming possibility after the Gloucestershire seamers had reduced Middlesex to 98 for 6 with the morning an hour old.

The nightwatchman Paul Hutchison lasted four overs, Paul Weekes was lbw offering no shot to the left-armer Franklin, and Jamie Dalrymple lost his middle stump to James Averis.

With exactly 100 runs needed to avoid the follow-on, Nash played the ideal role, second fiddle to the established Shah, taking 23 balls to get off the mark. Only after lunch did he get going, reaching fifty for the third time this season in the Championship.

After Shah's departure, Nash, unbeaten on 59 after three hours of vigilance, lost Simon Cook after a couple of lusty blows and the declaration came when they were still 94 runs behind, once they had a second batting point.

Middlesex learned that Ajit Agarkar, their stand-in overseas player, had been called up to India's one-day squad for a tournament in the Netherlands later this month, the NatWest Challenge against England and the Champions Trophy in September. It is believed he will be able to play in next week's Championship match against Sussex.