Gatting in vain stand

Somerset 376 and 102-2 Middlesex 350-3 dec
Click to follow
MIKE GATTING played a memorable captain's innings here yesterday. This was not a dour piece designed to save the game. On the contrary, it was a violent assault to try to win it, defined by a six hit straight over the screen into St James's graveyard. Gatting's 122 not out took only 104 balls, and it was all in vain.

Neither the weather nor Somerset had done Middlesex any favours. To beat a team that stubbornly refused to lie down (unlike Kent against Warwickshire), Gatting tried to provoke Somerset into a positive reaction, by declaring at 350 for 3, 26 behind, after an innings that had lasted only 55.4 overs.

Unfortunately for Middlesex, Marcus Trescothick scored even faster than Gatting. His 50 came in only 31 balls and, although he was out for 59, Somerset were 128 ahead at the close with eight wickets standing.

Middlesex were no longer concerned about sharing the Championship, but of holding on to second against Northamptonshire's lively challenge. Gatting came off the field slowly, signing autographs. How did he feel? "Disappointed," he said, "but Warwickshire have played well. Good luck to them."

But Middlesex had exhibited the skills which made them contenders in a splendid Championship race. Jason Pooley celebrated his selection for the England A team with 90 in 80 balls, confirming his role as Middlesex's most promising player.

Mark Ramprakash scored his 10th century of the season - his third hundred in a row. Like Pooley, he had taken advantage of hard wickets in a dry summer. These conditions suit Middlesex best, and their two defeats of the summer, against Warwickshire and Lancashire, have come in damp conditions when the ball has moved sharply off the seam. Here there was no spite in the wicket, and Somserset's bowling was under strength.

The pugnacity of the batsman was so absorbing that it was easy to forget that this could be John Emburey's last game for Middlesex. He wants to coach next season and has had plenty of offers, none of them so far from Middlesex, though he might still stay if a proper role was found.

Embury and Phil Tufnell have each had a productive summer too, and the difference between the champions and likely runners-up is the pace attack, and especially the overseas player. Dion Nash, in his first Middlesex season, has been promising but he is still learning. Allan Donald, on the other hand, is a match winner, perhaps even more important to Warwickshire this season than Brian Lara was last.