Cricket: Durham lose to age and injury: Sharp fielding fails to benefit a team lacking in confidence

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The Independent Online
Leicestershire . . . . . . . .217-7

Durham . . . . . . . . . . . .214-9

Leicestershire win by three runs

DURHAM last beat a first-class county in any competition in early August last year when they overcame Warwickshire in the Sunday league. Lightning did not strike again on the Sabbath, though their fielding was consistently admirable.

Durham's perennial problem is that none of their players are at their height, and it is compounded by the injury problems that inevitably afflict the strugglers. Bottom of the Championship table, where they finished last year, and without Wayne Larkins and Graeme Fowler, Durham again discovered that the game boils down to the final 10 overs.

The dismissals of Anderson Cummins and Andy Fothergill, run out by Justin Benson and Phil Robinson respectively off successive balls when 47 runs were needed from seven overs, were debilitating. Phil Bainbridge and John Glendenen had shared a fifth-wicket partnership of 76 in 16 overs, but Durham's optimism was still higher than their confidence.

The game's most impressive innings belonged to Ben Smith, a former England Under-19 player, who scored his maiden half-century in the competition, and Bainbridge, whose typically combative 61 off 83 deliveries lifted Durham.

Gordon Parsons was Leicestershire's prime performer, dismissing Glendenen, caught at deep mid-off, and Bainbridge, leg before, off successive balls. Ian Botham had already driven a fierce catch to short extra cover.

If Leicestershire had lost, as they did by eight runs in the corresponding fixture last year, 'holed out' could have been their epitaph: James Whitaker and Paul Nixon perished at square-leg having played extravagant uppish strokes. Despite their Benson and Hedges Cup semi-final against Lancashire at Grace Road tomorrow, Leicestershire are functioning sporadically. That game is also likely to be on a slow pitch, and equally low-scoring.

This offered a useful net for Leicestershire, as their title hopes are already reduced to one competition, barring the NatWest Trophy. Like Durham, they are sharp in the field and had enough in reserve to resist the improbable threat of Simon Hughes and Ian Smith scoring 11 off the final over from Parsons.

Leicestershire's opening partnership of 76 in 21 overs between Benson and Nigel Briers was the joint best of the match, and compounded their psychological advantage in winning the Championship game between the teams inside the distance on Saturday.

They duly achieved their fifth win in six meetings with Durham. It was also their second successive Sunday victory at their headquarters, after failing, remarkably, to achieve a home success in the competition for almost two years.