Wary Middlesex survive the minefield

Middlesex 307 & 397-5 dec Durham 204 & 114 Middlesex win by 386 runs
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The Independent Online
Mike Gatting could hardly believe it. That, the two captains apart, everyone else left Chester-le-Street without suffering serious injury. For Durham, the pain of this defeat was hard enough to bear.

They had gone into the final day on 82 for 2, a victory target of 501, nothing more than a rueful reminder of the beating they took from Brian Lara last year. Within the hour - 57 minutes, 67 balls to be precise - they had lost their 10th Championship match of the summer.

An occasionally uneven pitch, which had flattened out so much by Saturday that Gatting had felt the need for Middlesex to build an insurmountable lead, suddenly spat and crackled into life as Richard Johnson and Dion Nash gleefully banged the ball in.

Johnson, whose five-wicket haul from the first innings had duly been noted by the former Durham captain turned England selector, David Graveney, repeated the feat to record match figures of 10 for 98. Four of the assists went to the short leg, Jason Pooley, who pocketed six catches in all.

Durham, without the injured Alan Walker, stumbled to 114 for 9 before hoisting the white flag. Not that they can say they were not warned. The Riverside Ground was opened in May amid much trumpeting of its merits as a future Test arena, but the pitch, seeded only three years ago, is clearly being used ahead of its time.

"You have to feel some sympathy for Durham, because the balls those guys got were unplayable," said Gatting, who did not bat in the second innings after taking a whack on his recently broken finger. His opposite number and, until recently, his team-mate, Mike Roseberry, suffered further damage to a chipped knuckle, and with Somerset's Andre van Troost heading north on Thursday he may not sleep too well this week.

"Durham had no chance at all," Gatting continued. "If you expect your team to do well they have to play on decent pitches, and from what I gather, speaking to other teams, they haven't had that here. I'm quite happy to get away with being the only one injured out of our lot."

Reasonably pleased, too, with the 23 points which has lifted Middlesex into second place.