Cosgrove gives Udal food for thought
Glamorgan 351 for 6 (Cosgrove 120, Wallace 58*, Powell 51) v Middlesex
Shaun Udal's decision to stick Glamorgan in didn't exactly backfire, but he would have wanted more than six wickets to show for his gamble. As it was, the visitors ended the first day of the county season at Lord's on a healthy 328 for 6, thanks to a well-made Mark Cosgrove hundred and some late fireworks from Mark Wallace.
The day was more August than mid April, with clear blue skies and a decent crowd basking in warm sunshine. Whoever said the climate in England at this time of year was unfavourable for hosting the IPL was likely to be as red faced as spectators dozing at the top of the Nursery End.
In the era when Mike Gatting ruled the roost here, the season opener was invariably accompied by a report on the great man's fitness, and reports of how lean he was after pre-season training. On first sight, it became apparent that, despite the hype, things were pretty much as they had been at the end of the previous summer. What mattered was that it never made any difference to the way he batted or the volume of runs scored.
Cosgrove has similarities with Gatting, in terms of his run-making and also because reports on his achievements invariably contain references to his size. He is certainly not someone with the build of a man who spends his time hunting out the local gym, but when it matters, when he has a bat in his hand, that becomes irrelevant.
He strolled out at No. 3 after Glamorgan, on a pitch with a greenish tinge, lost an early wicket, Gareth Rees nibbling at a ball from Tim Murtagh angled across him.
The first hour was attritional - 21 runs and no boundaries - as Murtagh and Alan Richardson bent their backs to try to extract something out of a Lord's surface which hinted it would be every bit as soul-destroying for bowlers as it has been in recent seasons. Cosgrove and Ben Wright were almost cautious to the point of coming to a standstill, before a double change relieved the pressure, and thereafter Glamorgan fairly gambolled along.
Both batsmen capitalised on width outside off stump, with Danny Evans especially coming in for heavy punishment, and benefited from Udal's determination not to post a third man until the hundred came up. When Udal brought himself on, Cosgrove signalled his intentions by immediately dancing down the track to hammer sweet fours between bowler and mid-off and then bowler and mid-on.
On the stroke of lunch, Wright, who had matched Cosgrove run for run and looked well set, was deceived in the air by Udal and his checked drive was caught at mid-off by a diving Murtagh. Cosgrove and Mike Powell made untroubled progress in the afternoon, Cosgrove reaching his fifty in just under three hours but racing to his hundred in only 62 minutes more. His footwork was nimble, his shot placing crisp, and he made the most of the short boundary on the Tavern side.
Powell, who had been reprieved early on when Billy Godleman failed with two attempts to catch a half-chance at silly point, also kept pace with his partner, and launched Udal back over his head for six before he was beaten by a quicker delivery from the part-time legspin of Dawid Malan, straight after bringing up his fifty and one shy of the hundred stand.
Jamie Dalrymple, leading Glamorgan for the first time on his old stomping ground, chipped in with a breezy 28, but his dismissal, well caught by Eion Morgan, diving to his right at square leg, as he flicked Evans off his pads, was the start of a wobble.
Cosgrove's excellent innings was ended rather tamely, leg-before to Neil Dexter, the seventh bowler used by Middlesex. Udal was more relived than most as shortly before he had dropped him off the simplest of chances at mid-off.
Dexter then struck for a second time when Tom Maynard, who had got off the mark with two glorious cover drives, half pushed forward and was caught by Ben Scott standing up. From 250 for 3, Glamorgan had slipped to 280 for 6.
But Wallace, a wicketkeeper batsman who many in Glamorgan feel should achieve more with the bat than his career average in the mid twenties checked the slide with aggression, enjoying a few slices of luck in between unleashing some sublime shots. Murtagh, with the first delivery with the new ball, found Wallace's inside edge but it squeezed past his leg stump, but there were also slashing cuts and textbook drives.
He brought up his fifty shortly before the close, and showed little inclination to play for stumps in the time that remained. Even Robert Croft, who had been content to play a very subdued second fiddle, cracked two fours off the day's penultimate over as he and Wallace extended their seventh-wicket stand to 70.
Martin Williamson is executive editor of Cricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa