Cricket: DeFreitas hits strike landmark

Nottinghamshire 232 Derbyshire 49-0
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The Independent Online
BY THEIR awful standards of last summer, this season has not been without encouraging features for Nottinghamshire but they remain a team prone to huge variations in form, and but for the efforts of two batsmen this might have been one of their more embarrassing days.

After Derbyshire had won the toss and decided to bowl, Nottinghamshire rushed to 35 without loss inside a dozen overs, in which Usman Afzaal, normally their most cautious batsman, performed quite out of character. Enjoying the rare pleasure of a pitch blessed with pace and bounce, he took advantage of a little looseness in Dominic Cork's opening spell with three boundaries in quick succession off the out-of-favour England all- rounder.

This was, for the young Pakistan-born opener, a rare indulgence. Much more commonplace was the manner of what followed, as Nottinghamshire subsided rapidly to 79-5 in the next hour.

Guy Welton, the 21-year-old who stands to gain when Tim Robinson retires at the end of the season, fell to Andrew Harris but equally to his own faulty judgement as he tried to leave a lifting ball from the Derbyshire seamer but managed instead to deflect it on to his stumps. Harris quickly struck again, cutting one back to pin Jason Gallian on the back foot, adding another forgettable passage to the story of the captain's season.

Afzaal's security did not last; indeed, it ended in the next over when he nibbled at one down the leg side. The wicket brought Phillip DeFreitas to a noteworthy milestone, 1,000 strikes in first-class cricket, putting him in the company of only Allan Donald of those bowlers currently engaged in English cricket.

It is quite a feather in the cap of the Dominican-born all-rounder, whose career spans 15 seasons and has brought him 44 Test caps as well as more than 100 appearances in one-day internationals.

Resident in the United Kingdom since 1976, when his family settled in London, it was hard to imagine a long career in front of DeFreitas when he presented himself as a rebellious teenager with Leicestershire. He endured a frosty relationship with Peter Willey and moved to Lancashire with more than a hint of high dudgeon.

His life at Derbyshire, who appeared to treat him with less than good grace over the captaincy, has not always run smoothly yet somehow he has become one of the county game's most enduring players.

Graeme Archer and Mathew Dowman, two among a clutch of Nottinghamshire batsmen still waiting to fulfil their potential, came and went without disturbing that assessment, Archer holing out to deep backward square off Cork; Dowman edging to second slip attempting to defend against Paul Aldred, who finished with 4-74.

Nottinghamshire were rescued, not for the first time, by Paul Johnson. Few players hit the ball harder or score more quickly, although he had a rival here in Chris Read, the England wicketkeeper, whose confidence grows with each match.

Scoring at five an over, the pair transformed Nottinghamshire's innings. Read, who struck a dozen boundaries, was caught behind, cutting Aldred, for 67, he and Johnson having added 120 for the sixth wicket. The last five wickets fell for 36 runs as Johnson, whose record includes eight half-centuries in his last 12 innings, ran out of partners. But it could have been so much worse.