Cricket Diary: Larkins seeks perfect century set

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The Independent Online
IT WAS the type of innings definitely not associated with Wayne Larkins. He scored 77 in 83 overs. Normally, you might expect him to knock off that amount in 83 balls and then warm up.

Part of the reason was the flow of the runs at the other end which persuaded the Durham opener to drop anchor. Part was his desire to obtain a century against his former county, Northamptonshire.

The extra 23 runs at Hartlepool last week would have completed a full set of county hundreds. If he eventually collects it only Durham, against whom he has never played in a first-class match, will elude him.

Cricketers are notoriously indifferent about statistics but the century full set of 17 - three figures against every county but your own - concentrates the most unromantic of minds. As Larkins confirmed: 'Yes, I wanted it. It's one of those things all batsmen think about when they get close. What made it worse was that the other players out there knew what was happening as well.

'The Northants lads mentioned it from time to time as the innings went on. There was no point in rushing with everything going well and I was more annoyed than usual about getting out considering all the hard work had been done.'

The man known as Ned (when he gets to work on opposition attacks they are said to have been 'nedded') would have joined a club more difficult to get into than the MCC. With Durham having joined the Championship, only two contemporary players - one expected, one rather less so - are members. Graham Gooch, scorer of 111 career hundreds, brought his full set up to date at the earliest opportunity when he compiled 113 in his first innings against Durham in 1992. He was joined last summer by the Worcestershire captain, Tim Curtis, who has obviously chosen to spread his favours widely in a career of 32 centuries.

Those waiting for a hundred against Durham are Kim Barnett, Allan Lamb (chances gone for this summer), Mike Gatting (next week at Lord's), Mark Benson (August at Canterbury) and Graeme Hick (September at Worcester). Tim Robinson has one against Durham but not, in 16 years, against Hampshire.

The player now most likely to secure the first full full set of 18 counties (Viv Richards having failed to register a hundred against Durham) is Chris Broad. He has made centuries against 17 counties (for Gloucestershire against Nottinghamshire and for Nottinghamshire against Gloucestershire) but Durham have so far eluded him.

As for Larkins, he is confident of bagging Northants. At 40 he has not thought of retirement and those who saw his two superb slip catches at Hartlepool will understand why. 'I would hope to get Northants, though it might be dificult on their track,' he said. 'But I hope I've got three or four years left. I haven't even contemplated what else to do. Be a milkman maybe.'

CUP giant-killers have never been as plentiful in the summer as in the winter. Since the quaintly named Knock-out Competition for the Gillette Cup began in 1963, first- class counties have been eliminated by minor counties only eight times. The quality of the bowling is said to make the crucial difference, which is a bit rich considering that English county bowlers are given so much flak that they must sometimes wonder whether to show their faces in public.

This year's big day is Tuesday when 11 minor counties plus Scotland, Ireland and Minor Counties Wales (as opposed to Glamorgan) attempt to strut their stuff in the 14-year-old NatWest Trophy. Of previous winners Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Shropshire did not qualify; Cheshire are playing Durham, who no longer count.

Lincolnshire meet Glamorgan at Swansea, telling everyone who cares to listen what happened the last time they met 20 years ago. On 29 June 1974, Lincolnshire won by six wickets. Their hero was Martin Maslin who took three for 29, opening with his slow stuff, and scored 62 not out.

HAVING been all but deprived of big cricket for as long as the game had existed the soccer hotbed of the North-east is now overflowing with the stuff. Middlesbrough had Yorkshire as usual, only two weeks after Stockton, two miles away, and days before Hartepool, eight miles away, had Durham.

On Tuesday at Jesmond, Northumberland will play Nottinghamshire in the NatWest Trophy not so long after Durham's Championship match at Gateshead Fell two miles away. Nobody is suggesting this is too much of a good thing, though the neutral fan might wonder why both Yorkshire and Durham are playing away this week for the second time this season. This is not regional prejudice either. There are occasions when both Surrey and Middlesex are out of London.

HEART-WARMING moment of the week: The umpire Graham Burgess left the field at the close of match between Durham and Northamptonshire and said he could not recall, in all his years in the game, a match being played in such a friendly spirit, free of bickering, full of fun and sportsmanship. The video, if it exists, should take Australia by storm.

DEREK MORGAN of Derbyshire, who was 12th man in the batting averages in 1969 and winner of a man of the match award in the first round of the new Knock-out Cup in 1963, said of one-day cricket then: 'We didn't have any special way of playing it. We just went out and did what we normally did in the field and batted as usual. In the case of somebody like Roy Marshall, that was one-day batting anyway. It took a few years for people to start lining the boundary with fielders and bowling down the leg side.'

(Photograph omitted)

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