IT is testament to the brittleness of Essex's batting that only the nightwatchman, Mark Ilott, tailender Neil Williams and Stephen Peters displayed the application required to occupy the crease and thwart the persevering Glamorgan bowlers.
Admittedly, Paul Prichard and Stuart Law were unable to play through injury and Nasser Hussain is embroiled in loftier matters, but it was not as if the pitch was difficult to bat on. The pitch was easy-paced, with a hint of turn, and the demons were all in the heads of the batsmen.
The procession from middle to pavilion started almost immediately. Darren Robinson, clearly having failed to leave a trail, decided he had better retrace his steps immediately lest he forget. An overly ambitious drive at the fifth ball of the morning sufficed, Adrian Dale diving to his left to take an acrobatic catch.
Ronnie Irani demonstrated a greater stomach for the fight and alongside Ilott lifted the few Essex hearts that had bothered to make the journey with stout defence, but it is not hard to see why Essex are bottom of the table. Keith Fletcher, the county's cricket consultant, spoke a few weeks ago of the need for greater application from the players but it would appear that these words fell on mostly deaf ears.
Their excellence in the one-day game affords them the opportunity of adding the AXA League to the Benson and Hedges trophy but their showing in the longer game has been poor all season and it is success in that version which demonstrates the quality of a side.
With runs being relegated to irrelevance it was not pretty, but while Ilott and Irani occupied the crease there was plenty to admire and it took the introduction of the left-arm spinner Dean Cosker to break Irani's resistance. From 91 for 3, though, Essex collapsed to 97 for 7 either side of lunch, Ilott unluckily inside-edging on to his stumps to end his commendable 115-ball innings.
None of Paul Grayson, Danny Law or Barry Hyam showed the same grit, Hyam being Darren Thomas's 50th first-class wicket of the season, and it was left to Williams and the talented Peters to extend the match towards the tea interval.
Glamorgan, last year's champions, totally outplayed Essex and deserved their victory but mid-table anonymity is scant return after their heroics of 1997. The shrewd guidance of their coach, Duncan Fletcher, has been missed as has the penetration of the injured Waqar Younis. While the issue of next year's overseas player has yet to be discussed, at least publicly, the good news for the Welsh is that Fletcher has committed himself to them for the next three seasons.Reuse content