Clarke kept waiting for elusive ton
Warwickshire 362 for 8 dec. (Clarke 94, Barker 72*, Dexter 3-63, Murtagh 3-74) v Middlesex
A small but determined band of spectators was rewarded in the end with a tiny bit of cricket after sitting through six and half hours of drizzle and bad light. But for Rikki Clarke, without a Championship century since 2012, the wait continues.
If the second day of this match between title outsiders Warwickshire and relegation possibilities Middlesex was frustrating for the paying customers, it must have been downright galling for Clarke. Having accelerated into top gear towards the end of the opening day, no-one would have been keener than him to get cracking again this morning.
Instead, like everyone else, he had to wait until 5.30pm to resume work - only to clock off again, 16 minutes, nine balls and one run later, after being dismissed for 94.
The anti-climactic end to an otherwise splendid innings was almost inevitable, perhaps, on one of those mercifully rare days when county cricket seems to be a less-than-riveting event. The rain, that began an hour before the scheduled start of play, was seldom heavy enough to demand either a brolly or a jacket yet persistent enough to keep the covers on.
Then, when it relented, there were several inspections, much looking at the clouds and a bit of to-ing and fro-ing before it was finally decided to get on with it.
Clarke edged one, nudged one and then fenced at a lifting delivery outside off stump from Toby Roland-Jones to give slip catching practice. The chance, unlike one offered yesterday by Keith Barker, was taken by substitute fielder Ollie Rayner to send Clarke packing.
With only a maximum 16 overs available and the light worsening again by the minute, Warwickshire seemed uncertain whether to stick or twist. In the event, they secured a fourth batting point for reaching 350 but then declared at the end of the over in which Jeetan Patel was bowled by Murtagh after missing with an ugly swipe.
In theory, that gave the visitors seven overs to get stuck into Middlesex's openers. In practice, no-one but umpires Nigel Cowley and Graham Lloyd made it back to the middle. With a few cries from the stands of "get on with it" and "what are you doing?" ringing in their ears, the officials decided no more play was possible.
A lot of time used up, one might think, for seven overs, 24 runs and two wickets. But there is always another day - and, you never know, tomorrow could be a belter. That's the beauty of county cricket.