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Alan Gardner at Lord's
May 4, 2012
Middlesex 148 for 2 (Robson 59) v Worcestershire
It was a stop-start day in north London. Just as he was really getting started, Andrew Strauss was abruptly stopped. In overcast conditions that three times interrupted proceedings before bringing about an early close, Strauss played a bright and breezy innings, riding his luck until the point where he appeared to have rediscovered some missing vim, only to fall to the second ball delivered by Worcestershire's England U-19 allrounder Aneesh Kapil.
Kapil was making his first appearance at Lord's so dismissing the England captain was quite a way to celebrate. Strauss played around a straight one - pretty much the only straight one in Kapil's opening over as he struggled with the slope - and shortly afterwards the players went off for bad light and an early lunch.
If that was hard luck on Strauss, then he had already used up a chunk of fortune in the first half-hour, when he played and missed, grafted and poked, and generally looked so out of nick that the only positive was that he did not actually get out.
On two occasions edges failed to carry and he was also aided by a drop at third slip when he had made 5 only to settle and thereafter display some of the positive strokeplay either side of the wicket that is the mark of his batting at its best.
Twice he cut Jones hard to the square boundary and, having hooked Richardson into the Grand Stand, looked well set to capitalise on his early reprieve. In fact, he might have reached 50 had his opening partner Sam Robson been quicker between the wickets. Strauss wanted three after a clip off his legs and could be seen gesturing as much to Robson, whose turning rather resembled an MCC member who had forgotten to make his order at the bar. Instead, it was Robson who saw out the next over, a maiden, and Strauss who fell lbw for 49 to Kapil's medium pace.
"It was a great honour to get out the England captain in my first over at Lord's," Kapil said. "I didn't bowl as well as I could after that but I need to make sure I'm back on it tomorrow. I didn't realise how big the slope actually was. People always talk about the slope and it's the first time I've actually experienced it. It's quite a big difference."
Kapil, who regards himself as a batsman who bowls, has impressed for Worcestershire since returning from England U-19s duty in Australia and he might one day get the opportunity to master the slope in an England shirt. At 18, he seems eager to prove himself. "Impossible is nothing," was his response to being asked whether a result was still achievable, after a day and a half was lost to inclement weather and poor light, although that may have betrayed his youthful exposure to marketing as much as a carpe diem attitude.
Following Thursday's wash out, conditions didn't augur much better for Strauss' third knock of the season, as Worcestershire predictably chose to bowl under grubby, cotton-wool clouds. Chris Rogers may have temporarily replaced Neil Dexter as Middlesex captain but he maintained their losing run at the toss and for the fourth time in four matches they were inserted. The expected tumble of wickets did not ensue, however, despite the tight lines initially bowled by Alan Richardson, the Middlesex old boy, and David Lucas.
After a cautious start, in which they scored 16 runs from the first eight overs, with one boundary, Strauss and Robson soon found that this pitch had no anti-establishment leanings and proceeded to pull, cut and drive with alacrity. Michael Klinger was guilty of failing to cling on to a Strauss edge off Richardson - a sharp but catchable chance - and the pair went on to record Middlesex's first 50-run opening stand of the season, before Kapil struck in the 21st over.
A three-hour delay then ensued, during which a brief shower augmented the poor light, but when they got back on Robson sped to his half-century in a flurry of blows, taking just 11 balls to go from 29 to 50. Middlesex added 34 in 5.1 overs before another short interruption and then just as he and Joe Denly began to look increasingly comfortable, Robson got one that bounced and left him from Richardson and this time Klinger lived up to his name. Denly displayed some sweet timing, particularly driving down the ground, but after a length ball reared at him out of the gloom, the batsmen were offered the light one final time.
Worcestershire's most recent visit to Lord's came during their promotion charge of 2010, in which they won three of their last four matches to gazump Glamorgan for second spot. On that occasion, they dismissed Middlesex for 66 on the final day to complete an unlikely 111-run victory. It might require a similarly remarkable feat for them to pick up their first win of the season here.
What's wrong with their cricket? Well, what isn't?