Cricket: Essex driven by Irani: Chapple shines for Lancashire - Slow progress for Warwickshire - Leicestershire on the move

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Essex 155-8 v Lancashire

LIKE Wise without Morecambe and Garfunkel without Simon, Essex without Graham Gooch are a vehicle in search of an engine. The last nine Championship fixtures for which their captain has been otherwise engaged have failed to produce a victory, and on yesterday's evidence, self-sufficiency looks no nearer.

Given the oppressively humid conditions, courage was needed to bat first, but if John Stephenson calculated that the risk was worthwhile against a side that had beaten Middlesex in their last match but surrendered 25 points in the process for preparing a substandard pitch, he was sorely mistaken. Swinging the ball at will, the Lancashire seamers mowed down an Essex order as callow as it was shallow, only some characteristic stoutness from Ronnie Irani and Mike Garnham, allied to the loss of 56 overs, sparing the hosts further ignominy.

Irani's cussedness - 31 overs for an unbeaten 50 - had an unmistakeably pointed air. After nine Championship outings in five seasons at Old Trafford, the burly all-rounder decided to seek more gainful employment last autumn. As with John Childs and Peter Such, the change of scenery has brought opportunity and form to match.

Though rash drives accounted for most of the specialists, that should not detract from the vigorous contribution of Glen Chapple. Last July, the ginger-haired lad from Skipton waded into Glamorgan's declaration donkey- droppers with such relish that he reached three figures off 27 balls in 21 minutes, the fastest century in first-class history, but one rightly reduced to a footnote in Wisden. His three wickets here will have given him far more satisfaction.

Lent outstanding support by an agile cordon, Ian Austin and Peter Martin divvied up the other five wickets to fall, although the latter's most significant blow was the one that sent Garnham to hospital for 16 stitches in a cut left eye. Irani and Garnham had put on 50 at that juncture, lifting their side from a groggy 65 for 5.

Ever one for a scrap, Garnham returned after Austin yorked Such, and kept Irani company to the close.