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Alan Gardner at Uxbridge
July 11, 2012
Nottinghamshire 114 for 4 (Lumb 35*) lead Middlesex 98 (Strauss 50, Adams 6-32) by 16 runs
A month after his last knock, and following a four-week break for the FLt20 jamboree, Andrew Strauss showed some of the traditional virtues that his team-mates had forgotten to score more than half of Middlesex's runs in a sorry first-innings effort at Uxbridge.
Championship cricket has returned, brought back down from the shelf and dusted off again. Strauss has not played in a while either, since the third Test against West Indies, and it had until recently been suggested that his term as England captain was also soon to be destined for storage.
But it took another T20 refusenik in Andre Adams - currently well out ahead in the Championship wicket-taker's list - to winkle out Strauss, for 50 out of 98, with what he described as one of the "top three" deliveries of his career.
Adams, too, didn't play a single fixture during the FLt20 group stage but he had no trouble settling back into his loping stride, claiming two wickets in two balls in his first over of the day on the way to a six-wicket haul that already has Nottinghamshire, the Division One leaders, scenting a fifth win of the season.
"It was a good one, I was pretty happy with that," Adams said of the delivery that removed Strauss, pitching in line from round the wicket before seaming away to clip the top of off stump. "I thought he played very nicely, he played very straight. He nicked the odd ball but looked pretty much in control for the most part, but got a good one with his name on it. I've played against him a couple of times and he's looking the best I've seen him for some time."
Adams had been rested from T20 duty by Nottinghamshire's director of cricket, Mike Newell, in order to give opportunities to younger players, but he showed no signs of rust. While Middlesex's total - their lowest score of the season - would have been sub-par in a T20 game, the recent, concentrated burst of thrill-seeking, short-form cricket had clearly addled a few minds. That said, losing the toss for the eighth time in nine this season was probably influential in Middlesex's capitulation.
"It was a pretty friendly wicket to bowl on to start with, the ball was holding nicely on the wicket and it was just a case of getting it in the right areas," Adams said. "Most teams have just come off Twenty20 and you know you won't have to wait too long before you get a chance."
Strauss made them wait for more than two hours, his half-century a small crumb of comfort for Middlesex fans but of wider significance, perhaps, with England's Test encounter with South Africa beginning a week on Thursday.
Hundreds in consecutive Tests in the first part of the summer silenced questions about his position ahead of a series that will decide the No. 1 ranking and an exacting workout in bowler-friendly conditions will have been a useful prelude to duelling with Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and co. at The Oval.
His batting was calm and compact, studded with the odd drive and pull, and although he fenced at a couple early on from Harry Gurney and edged Andy Carter short of the slips, he proved that his game largely remains in working order, despite the lay-off. Perhaps sitting out the T20 is the way for 'proper' batsmen to go.
By the close, Nottinghamshire had lost four wickets in assembling a 16-run lead on a pitch slowly recovering its reputation as batsman friendly. Middlesex made regular breakthroughs but the visitors were more diligent in their approach, the only sign of T20 excitability coming when Samit Patel hit Toby Roland-Jones for four boundaries in an over.
Although Middlesex have an attack that has helped them out of a couple of scrapes already this season, Nottinghamshire will start the second day with six wickets in hand and, in Michael Lumb, the sort of batsman at the crease capable of taking them to a match-winning position.
Rain truncated the day at both ends, sweeping in at around 6pm after a wet outfield delayed the start by 45 minutes. This is the time of year when batsmen are supposed to be in clover, the perils of poking and prodding on malevolent greentops consigned to memory as the sun shines and the pitches flatten. However, once the outfield had dried sufficiently, Middlesex discovered that batting was going to be anything but a festival at their suburban outground.
Having won three out of five Championship matches at Lord's, banishment to the vicinity of the M25 in order to accommodate Olympic archery at the home of cricket was always likely to smart.
Middlesex have not won a Championship match here since 1995, albeit with a 10-year absence in the middle. Sandwiched in between a leisure centre, a housing estate and a main road, Uxbridge is a more prosaic setting than St John's Wood, the pitch a little less pristine. Even with all the rain, you don't often see drives trundling and bobbling to a halt across the outfield at Lord's.
Inserted in bowler-friendly conditions, only Strauss and Gareth Berg, who made 82 runs between them, were able to hang around. Sam Robson, playing across the line to a swinging delivery, and Joe Denly, driving expansively on a day for unobtrusive accumulation, contributed to their own downfalls, either side of Chris Rogers receiving a lifter from Gurney.
Strauss and Berg added 63 for the sixth wicket, only for to Adams stroll in off his innocuous 12-pace run-up and claim four for none off 10 balls, as Middlesex hurtled from 97 for 5 to 98 all out. This season has been beset by weather for ducks and Middlesex had come up with five in an innings.
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