Spearman hits out to light up dying match

Middlesex 253-8 dec Gloucestershire 347 & 400-7 Match drawn
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The Independent Online

A faint pulse could be discerned on the final day of this otherwise lifeless match which was meandering gently to an inevitable draw.

Craig Spearman was the man who managed to inject a little adrenalin into the contest by scoring by far its most entertaining innings. Ajit Agarkar's two wickets in five balls did give everyone an early morning jolt, but he only served to raise false hopes.

Spearman's innings was the real tonic. It was a pity the New Zealander had been unable to get going first time around. If he had, this match might have had a more meaningful conclusion.

As it was, with the cushion of a 94-run first innings lead thanks to Ben Hutton's declaration the evening before - a gesture only since there was never going to be enough time for Gloucestershire to set a realistic target - Spearman managed to raise the tempo of what had been a soporific and rain-ruined match.

In his three hours at the crease Spearman entertained with his big hits and huge slices of luck. There was even an element of farce to his innings when, on 57, the Auckland-born batsman skied a ball from Melvyn Betts. Four players - among them the wicketkeeper David Nash, whose catch it should have been, Paul Weekes and the bowler - converged on the estimated dropping zone, which was around backward point.

Weekes yelled for the ball, Nash hesitated, Betts pulled up, Weekes lunged and plunged to the ground and the ball rolled safely out of his grasp. And Spearman had another chunk of luck on 88, when Simon Cook spilled a straightforward chance at deep square-leg. That was off Jamie Dalrymple. The next ball was dispatched over mid-wicket for the second of Spearman's two sixes - his first one, a pick-up into the Tavern Stand, had taken him to his fifty.

Sadly for the sparse crowd Spearman fell soon after reaching three figures - his third century of the season and ninth in all for Gloucestershire - having shared in a 170-run stand for the third wicket with Chris Taylor.

Taylor, Gloucestershire's captain, cracked a good-looking, if less dramatic, 91 and was joined by Alex Gidman. The 23-year-old carried on the good work with a breezy half century of his own which in a way outdid Spearman, in that it contained three sixes.

But at the close the only winner was the weather, which had robbed the match of 91 overs in all.

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