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David Lloyd at Uxbridge
July 13, 2012
Middlesex 98 and 239 for 2 (Strauss 127*, Rogers 59 ) lead Nottinghamshire 329 (Voges 105, Murtagh 4-87) by eight runs
Andrew Strauss was splendidly to the fore while making an unbeaten 127 for Middlesex at Uxbridge in his last innings before the first Test against South Africa next week.
Strauss had scored more than half Middlesex's runs in their paltry first innings total of 98 before being dismissed by a virtually unplayable delivery from Andre Adams.
He was then blameless as Nottinghamshire established what appeared to be a vice-like grip, not responsible for any of the five Middlesex catches that went to ground as they conceded a first-innings lead of 231.
But far from deciding he had done enough before leading England in the summer's showpiece series, Strauss tuned up his game further, batting with great certainty and fluency on a pitch that still had a trick or two in it despite having flattened out considerably compared to the first day.
Strauss needed a bit of luck against the new ball - and he must have been perilously close to falling lbw to Harry Gurney's second delivery. With just a single to his name, the left-hander was neither back nor forward but a long appeal failed to bring the response Nottinghamshire wanted from umpire Jeremy Lloyds.
Thereafter, Strauss gave the Nottinghamshire precious little encouragement. Inevitably, he played and missed a few times and edged Adams, on 59, a fraction short of the diving wicketkeeper, Chris Read. Then, moments before tea, he mistimed a pull against Andy Carter that could have gone anywhere but dropped safely in the deep.
Those incidents apart, though, Strauss could not have batted much better. His cover drive was working well, as it had been in the first innings, he cut and glanced confidently and, when Samit Patel's left-arm spin entered the attack, his game went into overdrive.
Patel was driven for a soaring six way beyond the marquees at long off, one of several meaty hits that saw him race from 62 to 100 in the space of 24 deliveries. By then, it looked as though nothing could stop Strauss, apart from rain, that is, which duly arrived during the tea interval and ended play two hours early.
By then, he had faced 205 balls, struck 13 fours as well as that six against Patel and guided Middlesex from a position of gloom and doom to a fairly rosy 239 for 2 - eight runs ahead and, given a good imagination and a full final day, with all results just about possible.
It needed more than Strauss's first championship century of the season, at the seventh attempt, to revive Middlesex, however. Although Sam Robson, who was dropped in the slips by Adam Voges on seven, made only 26, he helped Strauss to put on 55 for the first wicket and, more important, see off the new ball.
But it was the second-wicket stand of 143 between Strauss and acting captain Chris Rogers that really deflated Notts. The pair started steadily, then counter-attacked brilliantly after lunch until Rogers became just a little too confident and went lbw to Gurney, playing across the line. By then, though, Nottinghamshire knew nothing would come easy.
"I think we were unlucky with the conditions over the first couple of days," said Rogers. But he admitted: "We put in two bad days so we needed to change that - and fortunately we did. We let ourselves down in the first innings and we wanted to show each other that we are still a good side and can fight hard."
Rogers responded "I guess not" when asked whether he had ever seen England's captain in better touch despite taking a month off since the end of the West Indies series.
"Straussy was amazing," he said. "He looks in control, his balance is just about perfect and mentally he is in a very good space. It's amazing that when you are in good form you can have a break, come back and still play well. Hopefully he can take that into the series against South Africa."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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