The Electronic Telegraph carries daily news and opinion from the UK and around the world.

Leicestershire v Middlesex

Reports from the Electronic Telegraph

19-22 August 1998

Day 1: Ramprakash sets the tone

By Stephen Thorpe at Leicester

First day of four: Middlesex 293-8 v Leicestershire

COMETH the hour cometh the men. If strength in adversity is the true test of a leader's mettle then Mark Ramprakash, Middlesex's beleaguered captain, delivered in full measure yesterday.

He posted a flawless five-hour 110, sharing a fifth-wicket stand of 229 with Paul Weekes, who chose an opportune time for his first century in two years, a fulsome 139 with 19 fours and a six.

After two batting calamities at Hove last week, when Middlesex recorded their heaviest defeat in over a decade, and a cursory glance at a firm, green-hued track, the captain would have been within his rights to opt for a day in the field.

More so when Alan Mullally loped into view, casting an eager eye over preliminaries - not to worry, though 'Big Al' was on his way to Lord's, and Ramprakash duly batted. An hour later, charged with orchestrating a recovery from the chasm of 20 for four, Ramprakash might have been doubting his own wisdom. Jimmy Ormond soon bowled David Goodchild and then Vince Wells, second in the national bowling averages, took three for one in six balls.

Justin Langer was caught behind trying to cut one that swung in and bounced, Mike Gatting went lbw next ball, his third first-baller and fourth duck of the season. Then Owais Shah was bowled through a gate more than slightly ajar.

Ramprakash dug deep before lunch but when hot sun mellowed the pitch and the shine disappeared, his fourth hundred of the season and 44th in all, seemed pre-ordained.

Weekes, meanwhile, was dropped on 50 by Wells at leg slip, the signal for a blaze of attractive strokeplay, Thereafter Leicestershire's attack looked threadbare, offset later by three wickets with the new ball.

Day 2: Middlesex left behind by Sutcliffe

By Stephen Thorpe at Leicester

Second day of four: Leicestershire (377-5) lead Middlesex (307) by 70 runs

HIGH-CLASS timing defined Iain Sutcliffe's career-best 167 in 4.25 hours and did much to achieve the first objective, maximum batting points, to keep Leicestershire well in the championship frame. Having collected four bowling points in the morning after David Millns (four for 65) made short work of the tail, Middlesex's revival was put into proper perspective.

Darren Maddy went early but Sutcliffe's touch soon had Leicestershire rattling along in comfort on a bland, easy-paced track. Phil Tufnell, the England left-armer, still has hopes of another Australian winter but his output so far in this seamer-friendly 'summer', 32 wickets at 38 apiece, requires a final month of hard toil and drier surfaces.

Vince Wells kept Sutcliffe company in a stand of 156, making 67 before Mark Ramprakash accepted his second catch, the first of three surprise wickets. Then Smith's first ball, a bouncer, struck him in the throat, prompting Richard Johnson to try a couple more which both disappeared to the ropes. A good contest in the offing, then, spoiled by Tufnell's vociferous appeal for lbw, belatedly answered in the affirmative.

Phil Simmons, the acting captain after Chris Lewis pulled out late on the first morning with a lower back problem, has probably endured the worst season of his career and, true to form, the amiable Trinidadian at once chipped a gentle return catch to Johnson.

Tufnell checked Leicestershire's progress without ever threatening mayhem before tea, adding a teasing loop as the wind gathered gusto. Sutcliffe however, proved difficult to shackle, finishing with 24 fours and a six, and Tufnell cut a careworn figure at the end of his initial marathon 30-over stint, more so after Aftab Habib's 68 not out.

Day 3:Middlesex blasted by bombs from Millns

By Stephen Thorpe at Leicester

Third day of four: Middx (307 & 153-6) lead Leics (452) by 8 runs

JACK Birkenshaw reckons Leicestershire must win their last five matches to stay in championship contention, a stiff task in anyone's language, and a prognosis made more acute with the news that their three main rivals, Surrey, Lancashire and Gloucestershire had all won yesterday.

Three late wickets have probably assured victory today but the clash with the leaders on an Oval turner may yet be decisive. Leicestershire have only Matthew Brimson to exploit it, though, and in the final reckoning the coach may rue Adrian Pierson's departure.

A three-day turnover was on the cards when Middlesex were two down after four balls but Mike Gatting (73) and Justin Langer (44) averted that scenario in a stand of 96.

David Goodchild bagged a pair then David Millns removed Mark Ramprakash lbw first ball, leaving Gatting the unenviable task of avoiding a king pair and the hat-trick ball. Rank bad bowling helped him then and later, while Langer, who leaves for a Brisbane training camp tomorrow prior to Australia's tour of Pakistan, was allowed to sign off in style.

Leicestershire added 75 on a rain-affected morning which saw Paul Nixon hospitalised after a nasty blow on the elbow. No lasting damage was evident but the wicketkeeper was soon in more bother when James Hewitt ran one off an outside edge for Langer to hold the catch low at slip.

Aftab Habib, newly capped and the leading run scorer, finished with a classy 84, leaving Millns (24 not out) to stoke the fires for an inspirational opening over.

Day 4: Leicestershire gain points on leaders Surrey

By Paul Weaver at Grace Road

Leicestershire (452 & 101-2) beat Middlesex (307 & 245) by 8 wkts

LEICESTERSHIRE gained two points on leaders Surrey with their victory over Middlesex yesterday by eight wickets. They took 24 points against the 22 won by Surrey against Nottinghamshire and the 20 taken by Lancashire from their convincing performance against Durham.

Leicestershire are still 39 points behind Surrey, with a match in hand, and calculate that they must win their last four games against Notts, Warwickshire, Essex and Surrey, at the Oval, to have any chance of winning the championship.

Leicestershire did not always look the stuff of champions yesterday and it was not until 4.25 that Ben Smith and Iain Sutcliffe finally scampered the winning runs that gave Leicestershire their seventh victory of the season, and their fourth in five matches. It was Middlesex's sixth defeat. The visitors had resumed on 153 for six, a lead of just eight runs, and hardly looked likely to cause Leicestershire any undue delay. But the home side were uninspired on a bland pitch and were required to take the new ball to finish off the Middlesex tail.

Middlesex added another 35 runs in the morning before they lost their seventh wicket, that of Keith Brown.

James Hewitt was eighth out at 199, caught at mid-wicket, before Leicestershire were again troubled by a partnership of 34 between the obdurate Paul Weekes and Richard Johnson. It ended when Weekes was run out for 49.

Leicestershire lost Vince Wells and Darren Maddy cheaply to give Middlesex remote hopes of an unexpected victory.

Source: The Electronic Telegraph
Editorial comments can be sent to The Electronic Telegraph at
Contributed by CricInfo Management

Date-stamped : 23 Aug1998 - 10:40