Or maybe it was the difference between last week at Lord's and this week. A week ago the circus was in town. The bunting was out, the big tops were up and the Prime Minister was here. Yesterday they couldn't even manage the clowns.
Instead we had one of those drift-along days of Championship cricket when the sun shone, wickets fell and the occasional run was scored. Watching the Championship, you sometimes get the feeling that this side of the county game is to English cricket what British Leyland was to the motor industry - heavily subsidised (in this case by sponsorship, Test cricket and television) for a comparatively poor return.
As with the motor industry, what has breathed life into the game is foreign investment. Essex this summer have added a great power unit in the shape of Australia's Stuart Law - probably a Holden, but with all those Pacific Rim dwellers you never can tell. Law has topped the ton 11 times in all competitions so far, and Essex are beginning to purr along like those finely-tuned street machines Bruce Springsteen used to sing about - maybe still does on a good day.
A good day was what Essex had here. Though losing their captain, Paul Prichard, to the second ball of the day, they added 51 to their overnight lead of 121 and then made merry with the Middlesex top order. Many more matches like this and come September the gold and the glory will be going back to Chelmsford.
Prichard began the rot as far as batting was concerned. Ashley Cowan and Neil Williams, who added 37 in nine overs for Essex, made the major stand of the day. Middlesex never looked like matching it. Paul Weekes edged Mark Ilott's opening ball to second slip. Four balls later, Mark Ramprakash joined him on a pair, again adjudged lbw to Ilott. Jason Pooley shouldered arms to Williams and lost his offstump. John Carr edged Cowan to the wicketkeeper and Essex were cruising to their third successive Championship win. Surreal? It was downright unreal.Reuse content