Middlesex 78 for 2 trail Lancashire 236 (Loye 101, Keegan 5-36) by 158 runs
You could see the damp in the pitch even from the removed heights of the NatWest gherkin. The bowlers were leaving long, deep prints that looked like they'd been left by a particularly orderly mole. And while 236 wasn't a great score for Lancashire, it was looking more healthy when Middlesex stumbled to 10 for 2 before they closed on 78 for 2.
Chad Keegan made the most of the conditions, taking his second five-for of the season. It was a big day for him in all. The PA announced that he would be awarded Seaxes player of the 2003 season at a ceremony later this evening (let's hope that it wasn't supposed to be a surprise). And, perhaps more importantly, Keegan unveiled his second hairdo of the Championship, a pony-tail scraped back behind a white headband that was oddly reminiscent of Jane Fonda in the 1980s.
His bowling was as lively as one of her workouts. Lancashire were starting to settle at 193 for 4, and Mal Loye was tucking in to Paul Weekes's toothless spin, when Keegan, who had been bowling a fraction short, adjusted his length and reaped instant rewards with three wickets in an over. First Glen Chapple played around an outswinger, then Loye, losing his concentration, drove straight to mid-on, punching the air in anger. Dominic Cork was the final victim, and when Nantie Hayward bowled Kyle Hogg off an inside edge next over, Lancashire had lost four wickets in nine balls for one run.
No surprise Loye was frustrated - apart from a brief supporting role from Chapple, he was the closest thing to backbone that Lancashire's batting had. He was in fine touch from the moment he arrived at the crease, flashing an ostentatious drive to point off Keegan in the 11th over, and taking two boundaries off Hayward in the next. In all he played 14 fours in his century, as well as a six that went into the Mound Stand. The only time he looked off-key was when, having brought up his century with an imperious drive over mid-on, he raised his bat in acknowledgement to the grandstand - where not a soul sat.
Taking the field after tea, Cork made sure that Keegan would not be the only member of the Nicky Clarke XI making an impact today. With Andrew Strauss sleeping off his jetlag - the dedicated Middlesex captain had taken the field despite flying in from the Caribbean early this morning - Cork had both openers, Sven Koenig and Ben Hutton, lbw in his first and second overs. Owais Shah, dropped by Carl Hooper off Cork's fourth, looks like he could make the mistake pay tomorrow.