Cricket: Croft sets standard

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The Independent Online
Glamorgan 172 & 183-9 dec

Sussex 54 & 67 Glamorgan win by 234 runs

The Glamorgan captain Matthew Maynard may unwittingly have started a new trend by declaring Glamorgan's second innings even before the close of Friday's second day. Surely it cannot have happened before in four- day cricket, but yesterday it was so successful that Glamorgan completed their fourth Championship win of the season, 17 minutes before lunch.

Sussex were bowled out for 67 - hardly a notable improvement on their 54 in the first innings - to give Glamorgan victory by 234 runs and, this time, Waqar Younis was not among the wickets.

It was Waqar, of course, who had destroyed an admittedly injury-weakened Sussex in the first innings with a magnificent spell of eight for 17 in 11.5 overs. Sussex were without Neil Lenham, Rajesh Rao and Paul Jarvis but it is unlikely their inclusion would have bothered Waqar, who was in awesome form.

Friday's figures, coupled with his seven for 25 against Lancashire six days earlier, gave him the remarkable combined innings analysis of 18.5- 5-42-15 and yesterday the modest Pakistani was gracious enough to let somebody else take over.

There were plenty of able volunteers. Darren Thomas took five for 24 and the England off-spinner Robert Croft claimed three for 9 off eight miserly overs after Steve Watkin had started the rot with two wickets in two balls.

Sussex had resumed on 10 without loss, 292 runs short of what was no more than a mythical victory target. They took their score to 18 before Watkin induced Keith Greenfield to edge a lifter to Tony Cottey at third slip and trapped Neil Taylor leg before with his next delivery.

It did not get any better for a beleaguered Sussex. Bill Athey played down the wrong line to Thomas and was caught leg before. Then Croft swung into action, taking Toby Peirce leg before without offering a shot for the second time in the match.

Croft then retreated to the slips, where he held a fine catch to dismiss Keith Newell off Thomas, and half the Sussex batsmen were back in the pavilion with only 49 runs on the board. When Mark Newell was bowled by Croft with the total on 51 there were signs that Sussex might not even match their first innings.

They did at least achieve that modest ambition but then lost their last four wickets for seven runs in only 19 balls and the humiliation was complete.

There is little doubt that Waqar has helped to instil confidence and self-belief into Glamorgan and, had it not been for their own 31 all out against Middlesex on 14 June and some unkind weather interference earlier in the season, they would now be looking down on their fellow Championship contenders.

What must be even more encouraging to Glamorgan's 10,000 members is the fact that, despite Waqar's invaluable input, this is not a one-man band. Croft has rightly established himself in the England Test side and the opening batsman, Steve James, rarely has an off-day as his average of 88 testifies. It is a well-balanced side, packed with an easily identifiable team spirit, and few counties will relish meeting Glamorgan in this form.