Ben Hutton scored an exquisite century, his second of the season, to take Middlesex’s first innings total to 311-7 on the opening day of the Frizzell County Championship at Lords against local rivals, Surrey. But not before bowler, Martin Bicknell, racked up five wickets in an excellent display of line and length to keep the honours even at the end of the first day.
After winning the toss and electing to bat, Middlesex Captain, Andrew Strauss, and Sven Koenig batted systematically, and put on 59 for the first wicket, with some flourishing batting from Strauss, who was moving towards his half-century.
Koening also played his shots, including a beautiful drive of Bicknell, who got his revenge the very next ball after the South African – who holds an Italian passport – played one shot too many, pulling a ball from the Surrey paceman to deep mid-wicket, only to be caught by Pakistan ace spinner, Saqlain Mushtaq.
A small, but lively crowd was present at the spiritual home of cricket, but nothing like the huge numbers that rolled into grounds around the country in the ECB marketing success that was the “Twenty20” tournament. Just the usual, mature crowd, in their anoraks and their flasks of tea, filling out their scorecards.
Even with the loss of the wicket, the home team managed to keep a healthy run-rate of three runs an over, which is par for this form of the game. Gifted batsman and vice-captain, Owais Shah, joined his senior at the crease and together put on a partnership of 33 in 10 overs before Saqlain Mushtaq came on to remove Strauss, who was three short of his half-century, caught brilliantly at silly point by Surrey’s skipper, Adam Hollioake.
Shah was joined by Ben Hutton, who scored a century in the previous championship game against Essex, and together, took the score to 100-2 at lunch.
Disaster struck for Middlesex after the break, when Bicknell took two wickets in an over, removing Shah, who hit a four through extra cover the ball before, caught by the ever-agile Alec Stewart, who was keeping wicket as usual. Two balls later, Joyce was trapped LBW for a duck, reducing them to 110-4 after 39 overs.
Hutton was then joined by Abdul Razzaq, who had scored a quick fire 45 on the same ground for Pakistan against England in a one-day international, carrying the momentum from the match to hit another rapid innings of 29, consisting of six boundaries, including three in one over, off his international team-mate, Saqlain.
Alec Stewart took a total of three catches, all off the bowling of Bicknell, including that of Razzaq, and Paul Weekes.
Hutton was dropped by Ramprakash on 75, although it is fair to say it was a hard chance as the ball kept low. Middlesex wicketkeeper, David Nash, came in to become Ben Hutton’s fourth partner and together put on 49, in which Nash danced with death, playing two boundaries through the slips.
Hutton continued his flourishing batting display with two more sixes, including one which could have been out, but Salisbury’s dive on the boundary was in vain as he pushed the ball over for the maximum.
Middlesex’s 300 came up in the 94th over, and a mis-field by Tudor allowed Ben Hutton to scamper for a significant single, which brought up his three figures, but only added one to his century, as leg-break bowler Salisbury, made up for the earlier chance by clean bowling him. Hutton’s majestic innings came to an end at 101, which came in 184 balls in a gruelling 256 minutes in windy and overcast conditions. His innings was well aided by ten fours and four sixes.
Middlesex ended the day on 311 for seven wickets, with Nash on 22 and new batsman, Noffke on two in 99 overs. Surprisingly, there was only one delay in the whole day, which was for bad light, although rain did threaten, but didn’t occupy the crease for long, rather like Joyce’s innings. Surrey still look like the team in command and have the players to cull any resistance by the crusaders. Roll on Day 2…
Surrey ended day two on a high, with some former England players showing their worth, including opening batsman, Ian Ward, who scored a quick-fire, 155-ball century, his third of the season.
Middlesex resumed from 310-7, with Noffke hitting a flurry of boundaries in opening overs before being bowled by James Ormond, who was quite expensive on the opening day.
Surrey’s innings got underway in style, with openers, Ian Ward and Mark Butcher, hitting shots as if were a one-day match, and soon took the score to 53 of just 64 balls, which included eight boundaries.
Surrey’s formidable opening batsmen continued in their way, reaching 89 in 20 overs. However, Pakistan’s ace all-rounder, Abdul Razzaq, dismissed Butcher, who mis-timed a hook shot, to fine leg fielder, Koenig.
The fall of the wicket brought out former Middlesex batsman and crowd favourite, Mark Ramprakash, who was met with a good reception from the Lords crowd, although a handful fuelled by alcohol jeered his coming to the crease.
Ramprakash had a stuttering start, nearly running out Ward, to get his first run. Meanwhile, Ward continued his flow of runs, and soon brought up his 50 by pulling Razzaq for a boundary, and consequently, brought up the 100 for Surrey in the 25th over.
Ward and Ramprakash soon put on a half-century stand, which was dominated by Ward, who pulled cook for a six in the Tavern stand.
The boundaries continued to flow for Ward as he pulled Razzaq on the leg-side to bring up an excellent century, which included 15 boundaries and a six, and with Ramprakash setting loose, put on a century partnership to take the score to 190-1 at tea.
Only three runs were added to the total after tea before Ward edged to Owais Shah at slip, off the bowling of Paul Weekes, whose tight spell really slowed down the run rate, as Surrey could only add 6 runs in 11 overs since the tea interval. Rejuvenated batsman, Graham Thorpe, hit a trademark drive for 4, to bring up the 200, and then followed it up with another in the same over.
Ramprakash moved within sight of another half century by steering the ball to the vacant third man area, to get to 46. Stuck on 49 for 2 overs, he finally reached his half century by tucking Weekes’ delivery down to fine leg for a couple. His 50 was received warmly by the home crowd.
Since tea, Surrey had only added 28 runs in 20 but once the two England outcasts settled in, the boundaries were once again flowing like the champagne in the executive boxes. Each mistimed shot was greeted with the chant: “You’ll never play for England."
Another 50 run partnership was complete, with a boundary by Thorpe, down to fine leg. Another flurry of boundaries from the left-hander took his score to 46, before he was caught behind by wicket keeper, Nash, off the bowling of Razzaq, who took his second wicket of the innings. Maybe the chanting caused his downfall.
Surrey ended the day on 274 for the loss of three wickets, only 96 behind and a whole load of wickets in hand. Ramprakash looked sensational and well on his way to get his second century of the season, with his 68 and night watchman, Saqlain Mushtaq yet to score. Surrey look set to post a good lead and will hope that their batting partnerships will continue to flourish to put Middlesex in trouble, and increase their unbeaten run the championship race, to stay ahead of second place, Lancashire.
The weather was in contrast to the windy, overcast conditions which assisted the bowlers with swing and movement. The sun is looking to stay for the remainder of the match, which could cause problems for the bowling team as the pitch is in tremendous condition for a big score. Which brings us leisurely to three…
Mark Ramprakash scored the third century of the match and created his own bit of history by becoming the first man to score centuries against all the 18 first-class counties against the team where he started, as Surrey piled on the runs and put Middlesex in a difficult position, ending the day 124 runs behind.
Surrey resumed on 274-3, on a glorious day at Lords, with Ramprakash on 68 and night watchman Saqlain yet to score. It didn’t take long for the Pakistan spinner to get the ball rolling as he hit two powerful sixes – his first scoring shots – including hitting one off his international team mate, Abdul Razzaq, over mid off.
It didn’t take long for the pair to take the score passed 300, with Ramprakash pushing through mid-on for three, taking his score to 81, and within a couple of overs, Saqlain slashed the ball over the bowler’s head to bring up the 50 partnership in 81 balls.
Ramprakash reached the historic milestone with a beautiful cover drive to bring up his century against his former club off 231 balls, which was greatly appreciated by the home crowd, who were on their feet. He was given a lifeline by Hutton, who returned the favour after Ramprakash had dropped him on 75, failed to catch him in the slips on 102, off the bowling of Cook. Hutton and Cook, however, combined to remove the batsman in form, but not before Ramprakash had pulled Cook for four, to bring up the 350, who then edged to Hutton at slip, out on 110. The two batsmen put on a partnership off 78.
Saqlain continued to pound the bowlers, hitting two boundaries in a row off Noffke and soon brought up his 50 in 78 balls. Together with new batsman, Alec Stewart, took the score to 409-4 at lunch, with Saqlain on 65 and Stewart 22, who hit four boundaries.
Saqlain didn’t last long after lunch after being caught at leg slip by Keegan off the bowling of Weekes for 69. Stewart continued to pound the boundaries but Surrey soon lost another wicket after Captain Adam Hollioake had his off-stump uprooted by an out-swinging delivery from Noffke.
Stewart survived a loud appeal for a catch behind before reaching his 50 off 76 balls. Tudor made 30 in his cameo with Stewart and together put on a partnership of 53, before Tudor was bowled by Razzaq, who claimed his third wicket of the innings.
Stewart then brought up the 500 with a trademark pull stroke. Middlesex bowler, Ed Joyce, took his only wicket of the match by removing Surrey’s bowling supreme, Martin Bicknell, who edged one to slip for 10.
Ian Salisbury steered the ball down to fine leg for four to take Surrey’s score to 544-8 at tea. Salisbury then brought up the 550 with a pull through mid-wicket, before being yorked by Cook, his second wicket of the innings.
With just one wicket left, Stewart attempted to push on towards his century, but only ended up being caught on the mid-wicket boundary, out for 87.
Surrey ended their innings in an excellent position and had an incredible six partnerships of over 50 runs in their innings on a day which saw the Middlesex bowling attack being hit to all parts of the ground, including 23 boundaries and 2 sixes and with a lead of 198.
Middlesex ended the day with both opening batsmen still at the crease but will have to continue the fight on the last day to prevent a third consecutive win for Surrey.
Surrey and Middlesex both remained unbeaten in the championship as rain interrupted any chance of a result at Lords.
A handful of spectators braved the conditions as the first session was washed out and early lunch was taken.
When play eventually got underway, the opening batting pair of Middlesex captain, Andrew Strauss and Sven Koenig showed resilience in their batting. Both passed their half-centuries in the 14 overs completed before heavy rain reduced the chance of more play, with Middlesex on 141-0.
Play resumed at a quarter to four, with the opening pair continuing to frustrate the Surrey bowlers by scoring the highest partnership of the match of 186, before Strauss was caught at leg slip by Mark Butcher, five runs short of his second century of the season, off the bowling of Ian Salisbury.
New batsman, Owais Shah and Koenig took the score past 200 in 50 overs before Koenig was caught at slip by Graham Thorpe off the bowling of Adam Hollioake.
Ben Hutton and Shah then played out the final few overs, taking the score to 218, as the captains shook hands and the match fizzled into a stalemate.