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Mark Stoneman, John Simpson grind Glamorgan between the showers

mid-sex 286 for 5 (Stoneman 128, Simpson 72*; Harris 3-77) lead glamorgan 214 at 72 runs

The spotlight was on at the start of the game today, but only meteorologists would have called the morning autumn. While leaves on trees close to traffic lights or busy intersections have worn down to a crisp death, most of the others remain green in the suburbs in September. Yesterday it was shirtsleeves in the MCC pavilion and London still has that lingering summer feeling that Clarissa Dalloway recognized nearly a century ago: “The King and Queen were in the palace. And everywhere, though it was still so early, there was a the knocking, the stirring of galloping ponies, the tapping of cricket bats; Lord’s, Ascot, Ranelagh, and all the rest; shrouded in the soft mesh of the gray-blue morning sky…”

By midday, however, we had an early lunch and the light rain may have been a relief to Glamorgan, who hadn’t taken a wicket and wasn’t looking forward to. The obstacles blocking their way to bowling bonus points and parity in the game were all too predictable. Mark Stoneman and John Simpson had scored 1,501 first-class runs this season before this match started and their 134-run fifth wicket score gave Middlesex a first-inning lead, the final size of which has yet to be determined. And after that early lunch, the umpires also opted for an early tea when the dim light and then the rain returned just before 4 a.m.

So it was Stoneman’s day and certainly the first session had reminded us how well organized a player he is and how many productive strokes he has without resorting to his muscular punches to his leg or his iron wrist cut past the point. By contrast, there was something harmfully soporific about hitting the opener this morning; he did not destroy David Lloyd’s attack or strike boundaries to all parts. He only went about his professional business so efficiently that by lunchtime he was 96 and Middlesex’s backlog was 30.

This pattern changed a bit in the afternoon session, although Stoneman insisted he was simply reacting to the balls he had been dealt. Shortly after reaching his third century of the season, he took over three fours in one from James Harris: a squeeze down the briefs, a pull and a cut. Simpson picked up on the theme with a few limits from Michael Hogan before hitting his own fifty of 109 balls. Two overs later, Stoneman was out for 128 when he was limp fishing for a ball outside Ajaz Patel’s stump.

Nevertheless, as he took off unhappily – another good sign – it was reminded that he may have been one of the ex-England openers in the county game with a chance of making a return to the test team. There is, of course, so much competition that it wouldn’t surprise you if the group holds self-help meetings where they share their experiences and their woes: “My name is Haseeb and I opened for England.”

As it stands, Rory Burns, Ben Duckett, Haseeb Hameed, Keaton Jennings, Adam Lyth, Jason Roy, Sam Robson and Dom Sibley are all playing county cricket and each of them is probably hoping to get that call from Brendon McCullum. So long is the list that Chris Dent may wonder who he is upsetting. There have been summers when he would not have let anyone down.

After a lot of humbling and neighing and hanging out, we came back at 4.45am hoping – it was more of a statistical calculation really – that we would play another 25 overs. It turned out to be just as realistic as an NHS target. Simpson and Higgins stuffed some loose gear from the spinners before Lloyd grabbed the new ball and the rain returned just after five o’clock. Before long, the umpires had given up the day as a bad job.

Not for Simpson, of course. His fidgets have become mannerisms and they are hard to separate from his cover drives, his firm convictions through midwicket or his extraordinary value to Middlesex cricket over a dozen summers. Unbeaten at 72, he will resume his 60-run partnership with Higgins, safe in the clear certainty that his team will win a game that would have to go far to decide the second promotion spot.

They don’t win much though, and not irretrievably, but a 72-wicket lead and five wickets to fall still suggests a match-making advantage. And suddenly one was tempted by the simple prospect of looking tomorrow 104 overs; 624 small action segments that should make up a full day cricket. That is of course a reflection at the end of the season; every defensive jab, every clever stop is suddenly precious. Maybe it’s autumn after all.

Paul Edwards is a freelance cricket writer. He has written for the TimeESPNcricinfo, erase, Southport visitor and other publications

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