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June 7, 2008
Middlesex 442 for 4 (Shah 144, Joyce 63, Morgan 62* Godleman 56) lead Essex 161 by 281 runs
Middlesex built around Shah's 144 but just as impressive was the long list of contributors: including Shah, four men passed fifty just a day after none of their Essex opponents managed the same feat. Billy Godleman, Ed Joyce and Morgan were Shah's primary assistants and it was hard to believe they were using the same pitch on which Essex were bundled out for 161.
Nothing went right for Essex, whose bowlers rarely looked threatening. Barely a day and a half into the match they already looked like men defeated, and Mark Pettini had a huge job to keep his charges on task, at one stage throwing his hands in the air in exasperation when one of his troops failed to shift from deep point to fine leg when the right- and left-handers turned over the strike.
But even when the fielders were precisely placed, Shah made Pettini's efforts seem meaningless. Arguably his best shot in a high-quality innings was when he pulled Alex Tudor so viciously that it flew away to the boundary with pinpoint precision, splitting a deep square leg and deep backward square leg who were hardly 20 metres apart.
A cracking cover-drive for four off Ravi Bopara was another highlight, although Shah was also happy taking singles and twos and wearing Essex down. His century came from 179 balls and gave the women who had come along for Ladies' Day something to cheer, although they were already clearly enjoying the Lord's hospitality.
The initiative gave women the chance to dress in their finery and gain free entry and a glass of champagne, meaning the grassed area behind the pavilion looked more like a day at the races than a county cricket match. But for those who were Middlesex supporters, there was also plenty of reason to keep a close eye on the game.
Eventually Shah departed when he tried to clip Danish Kaneria through midwicket and was trapped lbw, but by then it was already 356 for 4 and Morgan soon continued the attack. Morgan took a particular liking to James Middlebrook, launching him for three boundaries in one over and bringing up his half-century from 67 balls with the third, a well-timed late cut.
While Morgan targeted Middlebrook his fellow Irishman, Joyce, picked on the fast men. He hammered a pair of consecutive fours off David Masters, first a cracking pull forward of midwicket and then a well-timed cover-drive, before his off stump went cartwheeling off Tudor to end his stay on 63.
Joyce had added 137 with Shah and was following on from the good work of Godleman, whose partnership with Shah was worth 104. Godleman had a life on 29 when he was put down by Tom Westley at second slip, but he eventually nudged Kaneria to leg slip on 56.
At 169 for 2 the equation already looked depressing for Essex and as the cool weather gradually improved throughout the day, their situation only got worse. For the second day in a row they trudged off, patently dispirited by their own efforts, and Pettini's task of restoring pride to his unit in the next two days looms as a monumental challenge.
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