Coach questions value of matches

Cricket: India 349-5 dec & 165 Worcestershire 476-6 dec Match drawn
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The Independent Online
The future of matches between touring teams and the counties was put in doubt yesterday by a frank admission from Worcestershire's Zimbabwean coach, Dave Houghton. Worcestershire batted on into the last day of the three-day fixture, the declaration not coming until they had batted 117 overs, to India's 92 - a lead of 127 with only a little over five hours' play left. On this flat pitch, the match was dead.

The Indians made little complaint, but hinted that they were disappointed. Houghton responded: "We've lost four competitive matches and needed to get into nick. My job is to win competitive matches. This is a practice match. They went into this match with two seamers and two leg-spinners. What sort of a target would they have set us?"

The question was rhetorical, but with Thursday's double centurion, Graeme Hick, and the Australian, Tom Moody, available, in these conditions even Damon Hill might have been overtaken.

As it happened, two breaks for rain, losing 10 overs, would have upset the run-rate target sufficiently to have ruled out a result, but what will worry the TCCB, and the sponsors, Tetley's, is that the counties are seeing the concept of "making a game of it" as faded as an Edwardian seaside postcard.

Today the Indians visit Glou-cestershire, who will field a team without Courtney Walsh, their captain and overseas professional, and Jack Russell, their England wicketkeeper. Various sponsors have attemp- ted to spice up the competition by offering money prizes. Had Worcestershire won, Tetley's would have added pounds 7,500 to their players' pool, about half of Stan Collymore's reputed weekly wage. There is no need to mention peanuts and monkeys.

Counties no longer want nor need matches against touring sides. Tourists need practice between international matches, as well as shorter tours and fewer fixtures for less wear and tear on the players. MCC, Minor Counties and British Universities would provide more challenging games.

Moody, the Worcestershire captain, did not bother to bat as his team, 91 ahead overnight, added 36 runs in 35 minutes, Steven Rhodes completing a half-century to boost his benefit season.

Ajay Jadeja and Vikrant Rathore, India's experimental openers, then took the opportunity of assembling a stand of 146 against the county's journeymen seamers, Paul Thomas and Almagir Sheriyar.

The faithful Stuart Lampitt eventually broke through by persuading Rathore, voted man of the match for his 165 and 72 in his first tour game, to pull to deep square leg.

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