Cricket: Brown brings presence to bear

FIRST TEST: Durham pace bowler makes a mark on his England debut
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The Independent Online
There was an appropriate symmetry to the day on which Simon Brown proved to be a fly in the Pakistan ointment. Brown's Test career was just 13 minutes old when he took his first wicket for England, that of Aamir Sohail, who offered no shot when rapped on the pads by the left-arm pace bowler's 10th delivery.

It was a wonder the Pakistan opener survived the appeal by Brown. It was bellowed around the concrete bowl that Lord's has become and the echoes were still reverberating when the umpire Steve Bucknor's raised finger created a little bit of Durham history.

Brown, just 27, is the first player produced by Durham to have been selected for full international honours. So it was an even more special moment, particularly for the North-east. A moment to savour. And that is precisely what Brown had to do for the next five hours and 55 minutes. He had his share of close-run things but little else until the last delivery of the day.

Then Brown had another covering of glory when Waqar Younis presented him with a straightforward catch at mid-off, when he played an injudicious shot to an Alan Mullally delivery. "It was a fantastic feeling walking out there," Brown said, "in front of so many people and it was great to get a wicket so early, it gave me confidence. I relaxed a bit."

The day seemed to mirror Brown's whole cricket career. He was snapped up by Northamptonshire as a promising 15-year-old but by 1990, when he no longer appeared to figure in their plans, he contemplated giving up the game. Durham, his home county, showed an interest, Brown reciprocated, played Minor Counties for them and meanwhile studied for his City and Guilds electrical engineering.

First-class status was then bestowed upon Durham and Brown started taking wickets in earnest. He has accumulated 292 wickets, almost three times as many as John Wood, who was also there from the start. Already this season he has 56 wickets to his name, which have helped Durham pick up maximum bowling bonus points in 9 of their 11 Championship matches to date.

He certainly pleased the England coach, David Lloyd, who said: "I thought Brown was rock solid. He's got a good action and when the ball does wing for him he will be devastating. We picked a side for swing but it wasn't until later on that we did that. It may be an inexperienced attack, Mark Ealham is playing his second Test and Brown his first, but that can be a heck of a plus in that people will strive that much harder to show what they can do. And I thought they did that today."