Cricket: Lathwell is caught short

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Somerset 288 & 154-4; Leicestershire 409

MARK LATHWELL, with his carefree hooking and offside swishes, can turn even Grace Road into a village green, and in his technical vulnerability lies much of his charm. But Somerset dearly needed him to bat into Monday. Instead he became the second batsman of the day to turn down the offer of a century.

Whereas Ben Smith was undone by a perfect off-stump seamer from Andy Caddick in mid-morning, Lathwell made a huge sweep at the off spinner Adrian Pierson and sent it straight to backward square leg. In putting on 103 with Nick Folland, he had performed much-needed repair work on Somerset's second innings and edged them into the lead, but when rain stopped play two overs early, the visitors were back on the ropes.

In the entire 1993 season, Leicestershire could only manage 23 batting points. This year, with a double-century debut by Phil Simmons and a return to form and fitness by Nigel Briers, they have racked up a maximum 12 in three games.

On a pitch containing much of the liveliness that had made Somerset's first innings such a play-and-miss affair, they really should have been made to work harder to maintain this record.

Andre van Troost can let slip a ball as quick, possibly quicker, as anyone on the circuit, but when it passes so high over the batsman's head that even six-foot Rob Turner must leap vertically to save four byes, then he is wasting that talent. After a bouncer too many, his captain Andy Hayhurst had a word, probably 'yorker', and immediately Van Troost removed Peter Hepworth.

On a wicket where a three-figure first-innings lead would be a huge advantage, Leicestershire's tail wagged on until almost three o'clock. When Caddick added two late wickets to his earlier three, he did so by displaying the virtue of sharp, controlled seam bowling.

David Millns, along with his new-ball partner Alan Mullally and Somerset's Caddick, had been watched by Ray Illingworth during the week. Millns treated him to four cheap first-innings wickets, and added two more to reduce Somerset to 30 for two before Lathwell and Folland gave them some respectability.