Cricket: Croft coasts to sink Essex

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The Independent Online
Essex . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .274 and 181

Glamorgan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .248 and 149-5

THE BOLD gamble of promoting the destructive hitting of Ottis Gibson up the order tilted the match Glamorgan's way and put Essex in danger of extending their losing streak. With no time pressure upon them, Glamorgan took the surprise step of putting in the Bajan first wicket down, reasoning, as their captain, Hugh Morris, explained, that the only way to approach an unreliable Southend pitch was by being unremittingly positive.

Morris himself was positive enough with a forthright 40 as Glamorgan chased their target, but the turning point came when Gibson came in for the injured David Hemp on the fall of Steve James. Undeterred by initially playing and missing in a way that suggested the experiment would be a great, glorious failure, Gibson found his range with a six on to the pavilion roof from the bowling of Peter Such, and he was soon on his way to transforming a low-scoring match and consigning Essex to a third successive Championship defeat for the first time since 1987.

The loss of Morris, excellently caught in the covers by Mike Kasprowicz, failed to halt Glamorgan's momentum as Matthew Maynard came in to bat with a confidence that has been rare in this match. By the time Gibson was stumped charging at John Childs, Glamorgan were within 74 of what had once seemed an awkward target.

Earlier, Southend had been up to its old tricks. The slow and variable Southchurch Park pitch did enough to speed the game to an uncertain

conclusion.

Robert Croft was the main beneficiary, bowling a long spell from the estuary end to finish with four for 58, but there was always sufficient encouragement for the seamers at the other end as well. After John Stephenson and Graham Gooch had gone in rapid succession, their relatively untroubled opening stand of fifty soon became a misty memory as Essex declined to 90 for six.

They would have been in danger of losing long before the lengthening of the evening shadows but for an excellent unbeaten 61 from Mike Garnham, who did his best to spoil Croft's figures and hit Gibson for 14 in one over on his way to 50 off as many balls.

He ran out of partners after Childs had frustrated Glamorgan for 45 minutes before tea, but a requirement of 208 looked demanding enough to worry the visitors. That worry, partially lifted by Gibson, returned when Maynard and Tony Cottey fell to the Essex spinners. But Glamorgan still finished marginally in control.

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