Gatting sails for century

Cricket: Middlesex 191 and 391 Durham 209
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The Independent Online
Mike Gatting's 90th first-class hundred was a long way from being his most memorable, but it will not be forgotten. His first against Durham, it made him one of the few with a complete set of centuries against the other 17 counties.

At times yesterday morning, though, Gatting looked incapable of making his ground, let alone reaching three figures. His judgement of a run was shaky; his running between the wickets, depending on your viewpoint, was either casual or ponderous. Nerves appeared to outweigh experience. But once past his first hundred of the new season, Gatting put away the blunt knife with which he had been hacking at the Durham bowling and set about carving them with a rather more familiar broadsword.

Having dallied through 27 overs in adding 76 with the night-watchman Ricky Fay, the Middlesex captain put on 67 in 16 overs with John Carr. He punished some very ordinary bowling as he powered on past 150, his third fifty taking 53 balls compared with 98 and 115 for the first two.

Once Gatting finally succumbed for 171, Durham worked their way through the lower order as Middlesex extended their lead to 373. Such a decisive advantage had appeared outside their range for much of the morning, but after the tea interval they were frustrated by bad light from making inroads into the second Durham innings. Perhaps a declaration would have been advisable.

Resuming yesterday on 54, Gatting several times looked almost indifferent as the ball rolled off his bat or pads perilously close to his stumps. A double-play involving cover point and midwicket might have run him out at either end when he and Fay took advantage of a ricochet. Still it brought some excitement to a cold morning that was never short of tedium.

You could tell it was going to be one of those days from the first ball. Gatting turned Simon Brown to square leg and was allowed two easy runs. A more positive fielding side would have restricted him to a single, but on yesterday's evidence Durham are anything but positive in their bowling or their fielding. In fact it would be true, as much as charitable, to say that they looked like an average English county side. Some conviction in how they go about their business would go a long way.

None of which should detract from Gatting's innings. The testimonial dinners will surely slow him down as the summer progresses. But if the hundreds keep coming and his 100th hundred approaches, the pounds sterling will keep pace with the pounds avoirdupois.