CRICKET: Briers starts off on the front foot

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The Independent Online
Leicestershire 253

Essex 150-2

After an innings of 114 by Nigel Briers had salvaged something from the Leicestershire innings, by the end the unconcerned strokeplay of Graham Gooch, who was ably backed up by Paul Prichard, had put the day into a different perspective.

Another major contributor on a cold, grey day was Robert Rollins, the 21-year-old wicketkeeper who has taken over this season from Mike Garnham for County Championship games.

Of West Indian extraction and born in Plaistow, Rollins has already caught the eye of Alan Knott. He held five catches off Neil Williams, two of them wonderful efforts, and showed that he has all the natural assets which go to make a high-class keeper. He moves easily, anticipates well and has a lovely pair of hands in that he always seems to absorb the ball into his gloves.

The Essex faithful will also have been pleased to hear that a permanent job in the development of Essex cricket has been found for the sacked England manager, Keith Fletcher. After all he has contributed in the past it is right and proper that this should have happened.

Prichard put Leicestershire in which was a good decision on a morning when the ball swung and moved off the seam. Williams soon made one lift off a length which hit Tim Boon's gloves. However, for a while, a false impression was created as Hansie Cronje hit seven lovely fours through the off side.

When the score had reached 67 in the 12th over, he was caught behind driving at Williams. It all then changed dramatically as another four batsmen succumbed to the moving ball with only 27 runs scored. It was not good batting. Briers, meanwhile, in his 25th season with Leicestershire had held firm and now gradually began to trust himself to come more on to the front foot and he started to find the gaps.

He lost Paul Whitticase at 137, lbw playing no stroke at Mark Ilott and then with Adrian Pierson as a most adhesive partner, began to assert himself rather more. His 50 came in the 30th over and his 100 26 overs later. He and Pierson put on exactly 100 in 28 overs.

When Essex went in, 48 overs remained and Gooch was soon dismissing the ball to the boundary in his own inimitable way.