Strauss composes winning overture to sink Sussex

Middlesex 258-8 Sussex 241-8 Middlesex win by 17 runs
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The Independent Online

Middlesex eased their way into the quarter-finals of the Cheltenham & Gloucester Trophy yesterday when they gained a 17-run victory over their south-coast rivals in a keenly fought match at Lord's. For a team whose record in one-day cricket over the last few years has been as poor as any in the country, this was another professional and encouraging performance.

Middlesex did not have things all their own way and suffered a nervous last six overs against a Sussex side who were well led by their competitive captain, Chris Adams. That the home side were kept on their toes right down to the last over was, in the main, because of an entertaining ninth-wicket partnership of 58 in just 42 balls between Sussex's five-wicket hero James Kirtley and Mark Davis. In the end, however, the total of 258 set by Middlesex proved too much for a batting line-up in which six players scored 30 but not one went on to win the game.

The platform for success was an opening partnership of 139 between Andrew Strauss and Paul Weekes. Making the most of perfect batting conditions and a dry, slow pitch, Strauss, the Middlesex captain, soon showed just why he had elected to bat after winning an important toss.

In Robin Martin-Jenkins' second over, the fourth of the day, the attractive left-hander tucked into his former Radley school-mate when he struck two crisp fours and a three. Weekes, whose education - Homerton House, Hackney - was not quite as auspicious as that of the two "Rangers", made the most of Martin-Jenkins' last ball and clobbered it to the boundary. The 16 runs that came off the over set the tone for most of the Middlesex innings.

These two left-handers have contrasting styles which would give away their upbringing even to those unaware of their backgrounds. Strauss gives the appearance of a gent at the crease while Weekes prefers a less classical, more rough and ready approach, which did not prevent him from hoisting Kirtley into the grandstand for six.

But Strauss had the greater impact, scoring at nearly a run a ball for a 75 that deservedly won him man of the match. In the dressing room after laying such a solid foundation, the 26-year-old will have been disappointed that his side had failed to put the game completely out of Sussex's reach.

After losing his partner, Weekes became tied down by the spin of Davis and Mushtaq Ahmed. Middlesex sent in an array of hitters after Weekes' dismissal for 73, notably Abdul Razzaq and Simon Cook, but their approach in the last 15 overs, in which they scored just 93 runs, probably knocked 30 off their eventual score.

The main beneficiary of Middlesex's generosity was Kirtley, who took four wickets for three runs in an eight-ball spell to finish with 5 for 41. After such an achievement, and 30 not out, he will feel aggrieved not to have been on the winning side. But any feelings of sorrow should soon be forgotten when he hears his name in England's 15-man squad for the fast approaching NatWest one-day matches this lunchtime. He may even be considered as an all-rounder!

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