June 21, 2000

Middlesex cruise to easy victory

A most accomplished batting performance by Middlesex, led by a splendid innings from their captain Justin Langer, set a target which appeared far too daunting for Nottinghamshire in this third round NatWest Trophy clash which gave Middlesex an effortless victory by 128 runs.

Langer, who has hit two centuries and had a score of 96 in the county championship this season, scored his first hundred in limited-overs matches and was supported superbly along the way by the elegant Owais Shah and Andrew Strauss who chose to hit his highest score in One-Day cricket on his debut NatWest match.

The three batsmen dominated the game during their time at the crease and made the Nottinghamshire bowling look quite innocuous.

At no stage during their brief reply, which lasted as few as 37 overs, did Nottinghamshire' s batsmen appear to be in control of the task that lay ahead or, indeed, even look comfortable against an attack that gave very little away.

Veteran pace bowler, Angus Fraser, who struck the early blows for Middlesex, finished his first spell of seven overs with 2 for 19 and was not required to continue with his good work later as Aaron Laraman with his medium pace had accounted for four wickets for 39.

Nottinghamshire's innings, which totalled only 146, never appeared to stage a recovery after losing 4 for 48 and whatever little hope they might have held of putting up a reasonable reply, disappeared after the 31 run stand between Chris Read and Usman Afzaal who were both run out in succession, Afzaal top scoring with 31. Read had gone first with 13 and having dropped two catches earlier, in Middlesex's innings, did not have a good match. It will not have been a good week for him, having also been excluded from the England One-Day squad in the forthcoming International series.

Earlier, Langer seemed to have done everything right to give his side a great start. Having called correctly at the toss, he decided to make first use of a fine batting pitch and then featured in two excellent partnerships.

Having lost Mark Ramprakash in only the third over, Langer and Strauss began a stand which dominated the Nottinghamshire bowling from the start. Langer got off the mark with a boundary to fine leg and Strauss pulled Paul Franks for four, having also opened his account earlier with a boundary, off Andrew Harris.

Despite the overcast conditions which prevailed for most of the morning session, Nottinghamshire's pace bowlers were unable to get any significant ball movement that would cause much concern to either batsman. Harris had conceded 25 runs in his first four overs and Chris Tolley who replaced him was unfortunate to have Langer, on 15, dropped by Read behind the stumps off his first ball.

That was the only chance that the left-handed Australian was to give in his entire innings during which he faced 126 balls. Runs came quickly, they reached 53 from as many balls. The first ten overs had gone for 57 and at that point the second bowling change took place. Paul Reiffel, who arrived in the country two days ago from Australia as a replacement for the county's injured fast bowler, Shoaib Akhtar, was brought on for his first bowl for Nottinghamshire.

During his spell of ten overs for 52, without a wicket, there were signs that he will take, not surprisingly, a little time to acclimatize and settle. His first spell of five overs had conceded 21, the same as Paul Franks whom, he had replaced.

Meanwhile runs were coming freely to Middlesex. Strauss reached 40 with a pull off Reiffel after Langer had driven him to the extra-cover boundary. The hundred was up from 126 balls and Strauss reached his first fifty in limited-overs cricket for his county, from 73 balls.

Langer reached his fifty in style, lifting Harris for six over mid-on and flicking the next delivery to the fine-leg boundary. The scoring rate rapidly increased with both batsmen going neck and neck, on 56, when Strauss fell to a catch at backward point off left-arm spinner Richard Stemp.

The next partnership between Langer and Shah proved even more damaging to Nottinghamshire with Shah forming an excellent understanding with Langer for running between the wickets. The two hundred of the innings came in the 39th. over, it's the first time this season that Middlesex has reached this figure in One-Day matches.

It took only 101 balls for the hundred of the partnership to come up and Langer's century had taken 128 balls. He had hit six boundaries and a six off Harris who had later been hit for two more sixes by Keith Dutch.

Finally, with the total on 235, Langer was run out, going for a second run, to the non-strikers end. One run later Shah, was stumped, just one short of his fifty which came from only 53 balls and was another entertaining knock in the Middlesex innings of 274.