Briers completes rehabilitation

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Leicestershire 356-7 v Warwickshire

NIGEL BRIERS, that most enduring of county professionals, completed a characteristically determined recovery from injury with an equally typical century for Leicestershire here yesterday, going on to make the highest score of the day anywhere.

Last August, Briers ruptured an Achilles tendon, batting against Middlesex at Lord's. He missed the remainder of the season. As he hobbled through the autumn on crutches it was even mooted that a career spanning 23 summers at Grace Road might be about to end.

During a winter in which he passed his 39th birthday, Briers balanced his teaching duties at Ludgrove School in Berkshire with a careful rehabilitation programme and presented himself for pre-season practice fully fit.

Briers made his first-class debut in 1971 aged 16 years 103 days. Only Eddie Hemmings among current players can boast longer service. His enthusiasm is undimmed. Indeed, if anything, the dual responsibility of being opening bat and captain, which he assumed in 1990, has made him keener still.

A hundred by Briers is rarely memorable as a spectacle but is invariably something to be admired. Yesterday's example, his 27th in first-class cricket, was the usual essay in diligence and concentration. After he had got there with a punched on-drive off Dermot Reeve, his 13th four, he held both arms above his head, repeating the gesture at 150 as Ben Smith assisted him in a valuable partnership of 108 for the fifth wicket. He was caught at slip off Reeve shortly after that.

It has been equally common for a Briers' hundred to redeem an otherwise patchy innings, which this was, between the removal of Tim Boon, well caught by a diving Dominic Ostler at second slip, at 100 for 2 in the 39th over, and the arrival, at 212 for 4 in the 73rd over, of Ben Smith, whose free strokeplay brought a rapid acceleration. Briers' accumulation was steady - 50 off 117 balls, 100 off 199, 150 off 293 - but his partnership with Smith added 108 in 27 overs.

There was bounce and sideways movement to be had from a greenish pitch, and movement in the air, but Warwickshire did not bowl straight enough.

Gladstone Small was an exception. He deserved the wicket of Boon and he took another later when Reeve took his third catch.

Warwickshire caught well, Reeve at gully in particular. Phil Simmons, 261 in his first knock for Leicestershire last week, had not added to his score from an abbreviated first day when he unleashed a ferocious shot off the back foot only to see the home captain dismiss him brilliantly. Michael Bell, an enthusiastic left-arm seamer, was then rewarded when Reeve held on to a drive by James Whitaker.