Football: Hartley rises to the challenge

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Yorkshire 256

Middlesex 138-2

THE champions-elect began this match as if intent on polishing off Yorkshire in two days before setting about Northamptonshire next week and then raising the pennant. Yesterday, with the North Sea a rim of blue fire, some of the polish rubbed off, three catches went down and the Tykes wriggled out of immediate danger.

Middlesex will have taken some considerable consolation from the continuing progress of Angus Fraser. The big man took a career-best 7 for 40 against Leicestershire a week ago and yesterday, on a still slow pitch, giving the seamers a little variation in lift, he finished with 4 for 25 off 17 pretty accurate overs.

While sympathising with Mike Gatting's desire not to overstrain Fraser, his other bowling decisions mystified the audience. Fraser and Phil Tufnell, with John Emburey later, were Middlesex's most successful bowlers on Thursday when Yorkshire were reduced to 89 for 5 in 33 overs.

Yesterday the bowling order read Emburey, Neil Williams, Mark Feltham, Tufnell and Fraser. The spinners can achieve only a slow turn here but such is their reputation, and such is Yorkshire's level of confidence, that their names alone might have made more impact.

As it was, David Byas was able to add 67 in 25 overs with Peter Hartley and then 57 in 22 with Darren Gough. Hartley had such an experience outside his off- stump against Williams that he might have been able to contribute a chapter to that famous work on 'Fly Fishing' by his namesake. He set the tone for the innings, as the Yorkshire tail finished by making their seniors up the order feel ashamed of themselves.

They were helped. Hartley was dropped at slip off Williams when 11, Gough was dropped behind when 19 off Feltham, and Richard Stemp spilled at mid-off when four. It was slow going but Middlesex had to wait until 3.40 before they got into bat.

Hartley then struck a major blow by having Desmond Haynes caught behind, a reward for an accurate opening spell, the West Indian walking after what could have been only a faint snick. When Gough knocked out Mike Roseberry's leg stump the crowd drifted off for high tea in high fettle - but Gatting was looking ominous by the close.