WHEN it comes to spying missions on po=tential fast bowlers, it would be a better idea for England selectors to sit at home browsing through The Lancet than chugging up and down motorways. Brian Bolus was still busy trying to persuade the New Road car park attendant yesterday morning that he was really quite important when the tannoy crackled into life. 'No 9 on your scorecard, delete Mark Ilott . . .'
Ilott would have been a candidate to replace Devon Malcolm when the selectors sit down tomorrow to pick their second Test team, but he is out of this game with a groin strain, and thus joins Darren Gough, Chris Lewis and Andrew Caddick on the list of those more in line for a trip to Lourdes than Lord's.
Worcestershire's Neal Radford was also a late withdrawal with a groin strain, although he should immediately be appointed as England's new supremo after his claim to have spotted a fatal flaw in Brian Lara's technique. Radford is not yet revealing what it is, but if he has spotted that Lara is prone to mild fatigue once past 500, he might be on to something.
Both Ilott and Radford would have enjoyed bowling here, on an uneven, seaming pitch that partly provides the answer as to why Graeme Hick rarely turns his arm over for his county. Essex did not bother picking John Childs, who nonetheless had a more exciting day than Peter Such. On a raw day,
abbreviated by 38 overs through bad light, Such stood around unemployed and shivering under several layers of sweater at mid-off.
Hick made a decentenough 65 given the conditions, although the fact that three Worcestershire players made half-centuries was indicative of some ordinary bowling, and 254 for 6 is a better score than it looks. Gavin Haynes, man of the match in the Benson and Hedges semi-final, again caught the eye, and Tom Moody assisted Hick in the most productive stand of the day, 100 for the third wicket.
Essex's two best bowlers were John Stephenson, who is less innocuous than he looks, and Michael Kasprowicz, who is a comparative rarity in the long list of county bowlers with Australian accents in that he is neither qualified for England, nor wants to be. You can tell he is an Australian fast bowler, as he puts in long spells without breaking down.
Essex's long spell without breaking down spans 11 years, with five championships and nine top-four finishes, but they are thin enough on bowling for their current position - third - to be a minor surprise. Yesterday, their bowlers profited from Nasser Hussain's catching at first slip. Hussain has now pouched 17 there this summer, and the one to get rid of Hick was breathtaking.Reuse content