Cricket: Cox the catalyst of Somerset's revival

John Collis says win over champions could be turning point
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DOWN IN the West Country they are fed up with being reminded that Somerset have yet to win the Championship, but if ever an omen was needed that this could be their year it was to be found in the clinical dismantling of Leicestershire at Taunton this week. Leicester won last year's competition at a canter, and this was their first Championship defeat since August 1997.

"We didn't bowl well enough after winning the toss, and Andy Caddick is such a class act that we couldn't get back into the game," said the Leicestershire coach, Jack Birkenshaw. Aftab Habib, educated in Somerset and briefly on the county's books before moving first to Middlesex and then to Grace Road, made a defiant 147 following on, supported by 62 from Jon Dakin, but they could only delay the inevitable.

However, with James Whitaker back in charge after losing a season to his stubborn knee injury, Leicestershire still have a smooth and efficient engine that will keep the Foxes in the hunt throughout the season.

As for Somerset, they do at last seem, under their new skipper, the Tasmanian Jamie Cox, to be performing as a unit, for the first time since the glory days either side of 1980.

This victory was achieved without their indefatigable all-rounder Graham Rose, soon to return after knee surgery, and the enigmatic Mark Lathwell, whose own dodgy knee is likely to keep him out for the season. And, although Caddick gave his usual tireless performance, among the bowlers this will be remembered as Jason Kerr's match. His first-innings seven for 23 was a career best by a mile for the brisk right-armer.

Kerr only made a couple of brief appearances last year, prevented from bowling by a troublesome shoulder eventually cured by surgery. "In a way it was a blessing in disguise," he said, "because I played for the seconds as a batsman and made over a thousand runs. So now I can press for a place as an all-rounder - we're not exactly short of seam bowlers."

Kerr and his fellow all-rounder, Keith Parsons, identified the arrival of the run-heavy Australian Cox as the last piece of the Somerset jigsaw, itself the fruit of Dermot Reeve's reign as coach. "Dermot is simply incapable of a negative attitude," said Parsons. "It's getting through to all of us." For the time being, Leicestershire can only agree.