Cricket: Franks' response spares blushes

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The Independent Online
Nottinghamshire 211; Durham 67-4

HAVING surprised even themselves, one suspects, by defeating Warwickshire at Edgbaston, Nottinghamshire looked a moderate side again here yesterday, when only a career-best 66 from 19-year-old all-rounder Paul Franks spared them deeper blushes. It was Topping Out day for the pounds 7.2m Radcliffe Road stand, a structure a good deal more impressive than the team.

Indeed, the reality is that Durham let them off the hook during 90 sloppy minutes after lunch, having earlier reduced them to 85-5. Their last five wickets fells for 32.

They could have done with Jason Gallian - due back next week - and Paul Johnson, ruled out by a shoulder injury, and done without losing the toss after leaving plenty of grass on the pitch. But even after taking mitigating circumstances into account theirs was a paltry effort. Durham gave them 46 runs in extras.

Tim Robinson, restored to the top of the order, perished in the second over and bar Franks everyone that followed seemed shackled by failing confidence against an attack in which Melvyn Betts again figured prominently as the ball moved in the air and off the seam. The whippy 23-year-old began to look a good bowler last season, when he finished with 43 Championship wickets. Yesterday's five brought his tally this season to 20.

Betts ended the two most stubborn attempts at resistance by a specialist batsmen when he had Usman Afzaal caught at first slip and bowled Noel Gie off an inside edge. Afzaal took 26 overs to make 25, Gie 29 for his 20. Betts also claimed the wicket of Franks, caught behind flicking down the leg side, but only after the England under-19 player had profited from some wayward bowling.

No one fared worse during this period than Steve Harmison, whose line gave the wicketkeeper, Martin Speight, a testing time. This is a learning season for the 19-year-old but having taken 20 wickets so far he clearly knows a thing or two already.

By the time Betts removed Franks, who hit 11 fours and faced 87 balls after reaching his 50 in just 47, he had already restricted Nottinghamshire's young wicketkeeper Chris Read to just three balls on his Championship debut innings and seen off the leg-spinner, Paul Strang.

Franks opened the bowling at a lively clip and soon removed Jon Lewis. But Durham made a decent fist of it until Michael Gough and Nick Speak were caught at second slip in quick succession and David Boon was trapped leg before by Strang.