Strauss' cloud can't stop Lumb from shining
Middlesex 51 for 3 trail Nottinghamshire 423 (Lumb 162, Hales 79) by 372 runs
When a fellow scores 162 it seems ridiculous to focus on the guy who makes only 2 but, on this occasion, it is unavoidable, given that their fortunes managed to intertwine. Michael Lumb made 162, Andrew Strauss 2.
Needless to say, it is a score the England captain hoped he might exceed, especially after what had happened earlier. He owed his side a few runs, having dropped Lumb twice in two balls - on 95 and 99, both times off the medium pace of Neil Dexter - and put down Steven Mullaney, who made 61, on 34.
Strauss's latest brief encounter with county bowlers came at the end of a long day for Middlesex, who had watched Nottinghamshire put their own patchy batting form behind them to total 423, claiming maximum batting points after managing only one in total from their five previous matches.
At the heart of this, clearly, was Lumb, who probably had a month's worth of good fortune in one go after Middlesex revealed ways not to get him out that were not limited to Strauss's error-prone day at first slip.
The only consolation for Strauss, albeit a hollow one, was that he was not the sole guilty party. Taking catches at slip is always relatively difficult; holding steeplers at mid-on is meat and drink, yet Tim Murtagh dropped an absolute sitter there off Ollie Rayner, the tall off-spinner, when Lumb had made 86, just over half his final tally.
Murtagh's mistake, therefore, was the costlier, allowing Lumb the opportunity for another 76 runs. But with 27 added for his Mullaney mishap, when Rayner was again the man inclined to emit a shriek of frustration, Strauss trumped him with 94.
He did hold on to a couple, it should be said. But, all in all, Strauss would not, you imagine, have been in the best frame of mind to face Stuart Broad under the Trent Bridge floodlights, without which he probably would not have made it beyond the indoor nets, such was the dark gloom cast by a leaden sky.
Strauss has his own personal cloud, in any event. Yet it was not Broad who dealt another blow to his quest for runs, but Harry Gurney, a left-arm seamer he had never before encountered.
Gurney, who followed James Taylor in moving from Leicestershire to Nottinghamshire during the winter, was signed primarily with one-day cricket in mind but made a good impression after filling in for Andre Adams against Somerset last month and is keeping the more experienced Luke Fletcher out of the team in this match.
Quicker than Strauss might have expected, Gurney troubled the England captain more than Broad had in his opening over and claimed his wicket with the first ball of his second, drawing the left-hander to fence at one outside off stump and give Chris Read a low catch.
Strauss will not need reminding that he has only one Test century in his last 50 innings, so often has that statistic been repeated. The other one he will be disappointed with is 57 runs from his four supposedly recuperative innings for Middlesex.
Gurney did not add a second wicket but Andre Adams weighed in with two, bringing his tally for the season to 30, and Middlesex have some way to go even to reach the follow-on target of 274.
Lumb might also have been stumped, off Rayner on 148, but given that he batted for six and a half hours and hit 23 boundaries, some handsome strokes among them, it would be churlish, really, to suggest he was lucky. This was his second century for Nottinghamshire, whom he joined from Hampshire in the winter, and will confirm his liking for Trent Bridge, which was the backdrop to his career-best 219 in 2009.
His partnership with Alex Hales for the second wicket was worth 150 and he helped Riki Wessels put on a further 83 for the third. Lumb and Mullaney then added 95 for the fourth before Murtagh, at mid-off, belatedly put right his earlier mistake.
Mullaney enjoyed himself hugely, achieving the not inconsiderable feat of hooking Gareth Berg over the tall Bridgford Road stand for six. His 60 off 95 balls, supplemented by some enthusiastic late-order biffing, notably from Adams, took Nottinghamshire past 400 in the first innings for the first time at Trent Bridge since last July.
Steven Finn, the other Middlesex player with England on his mind, ended with four wickets but struggled for line and rhythm and conceded 14 boundaries. Then again, he is only 22 and his days under a cloud can be more readily excused.