Muddled Middlesex find the road back

Derek Hodgsonreports from Lord'sMiddlesex 189 Hampshire 105-6 CRICKET: Stephenson settles Hampshire n Wasim hits his stride n Stewart may rue decision
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The Independent Online
An extraordinary spell of medium-fast bowling, in seemingly ideal batting conditions, by John Stephenson upset Middlesex's first home day in the Championship. At the end of a sublime May morning they were a respectable 117 for 2 off 33 overs; by tea they were all out for 189, Stephenson returning a career-best analysis of 7 for 51.

But in a blessedly cooler evening Mark Feltham and Dion Nash made such inroads from the same end that both teams seem likely to celebrate VE Day amid holiday traffic on the way to their next Benson and Hedges matches.

The all-rounder Stephenson, formerly of Essex and once of England, paid for his effort with a slightly strained groin and batted in Hampshire's crisis, at seven, and was somewhat less successful than as a bowler. He had looked much less threatening earlier than Cardigan Connor when appearing as second change from the Pavilion End but by the afternoon, wafted by a zephyr from the Nursery End, he might have been the Demon Spofforth.

Middlesex began well. The captain, Mike Gatting, had obviously enjoyed his breakfast, giving Heath Streak a mauling, five boundaries in his first three overs, mostly on the legside. At 27 for 0 off five overs - Gatting 27 - Hampshire were looking hapless until Connor, who has a knack of finding the odd spot, gave Gatting a pearler that seamed away; he saw it, went back but could not evade the nick.

Jason Pooley, the anchorman, missed twice off the luckless Streak, fell to a good slip catch. Mark Ramprakash, sharp and hungry, and John Carr soon had the situation in hand, Ramprakash taking 50 off 73 balls. By then Stephenson had reappeared at the other end, and the ball suddenly began to move as if Wasim or Waqar had a hold on it.

Carr was comprehensively bowled; one run and two overs later Ramprakash edged to slip. Adrian Aymes and the close cordon then snaffled everything offered. Stephenson progressed from three wickets for five runs in 23 balls to 7 for 17 in 52.

So Hampshire, who might have expected to be in the field for a day and a half, were batting by 4.15 and were not unnaturally more suspicious than their opponents. Only 29 were on the board when Sean Morris was caught behind. Feltham removed the redoubtable Paul Terry courtesy of a dazzling flying gully catch, before Nash, adding pace to movement, revived memories of his marvellous Test match last year.

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