The 80 or so shivering spectators dotted about Lord's probably did not know it, but they were watching the future of county cricket: at least the kind envisaged by the Test and County Cricket Board for 1999, and then perhaps even beyond and into the next century.
That will be the year the counties are first expected to compete without the aid of overseas players. A situation both sides faced yesterday, Middlesex's Dion Nash and Gloucestershire's Courtney Walsh, being occupied in warmer climes.
Their absence as front-line seam bowlers was not overly missed as 14 wickets tumbled without a single over of spin to break up the pattern of a bitterly cold day, that was every bit as grey as the cricket.
Middlesex, without Phil Tufnell, absent with tonsillitis, and Richard Johnson, who has a shoulder injury, were forced to push several young fledglings from the nest.
David Goodchild and Umer Rashid made their first-class debut, while James Hewitt (apparently no relation to Princess Di's one-time paramour) made his Championship debut. He claimed a wicket with his first ball in first- class cricket, a feat not achieved for Middlesex since JHS Hunt against Somerset in 1902.
Having won the toss and batted, their headlong stumble to 200 was puzzling and in the end largely due to a stand of 69 between John Carr and Keith Brown. Both men eventually succumbed in the forties, with Carr's bat in particular, appearing to have more edges than a broken bottle. Indeed the first four of his nine boundaries went through vacant third man.
Kevin Cooper, the 38-year-old veteran of a thousand-and-one net sessions took 4 for 54 of canny medium-pace cut and swing, including the wicket of Mark Ramprakash, caught at first slip by Richard Davis off a corker that left the batsman late, having already drawn him into a leg-side shot.
With Pooley already gone, having dragged Cooper on to his stumps, Middlesex found themselves teetering when Mike Gatting was bowled off his pads by Jonathan Lewis a tall 20-year-old seamer, who bowled steadily once he had warmed up. Apart from Carr and Brown, it did not get any better and only Hewitt among the debutants made it to double figures.
Until they batted, Gloucestershire would have been well pleased with their efforts in the field. However, in fading light and facing a slimline Angus Fraser who was leading a Middlesex attack which, excluding himself, had until yesterday taken but a single wicket between them only Andrew Symonds looked assured. Fraser took two of the four wickets to fall, before a second bout of bad light brought a welcome halt.Reuse content