Cricket: Essex mount bold fightback

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The Independent Online
ESSEX HIT back gallantly after being mauled by Darren Lehmann, the Australian left-hander, on the second day of the Britannic Assurance County Championship game at Scarborough. Even so Yorkshire were able to claim a first-innings lead of 114 after being bowled out for 314 in 88.2 overs.

Leading Essex's fightback was the all-rounder Ronnie Irani, who finished with five for 47, as Barry Hyam, the wicketkeeper, took six catches.

However, Lehmann had punished their attack in the morning session by hitting a six and 18 fours from 97 balls. He was just one run short of a marvellous century before lunch when he appeared to lose sight of a full toss from Danny Law and was bowled. Michael Vaughan had contributed just 39 runs to a stand of 158 in 30 overs with the Australian.

The home side was 203 for 3 at lunch, already three runs ahead thanks to Lehmann's push, but lost their way somewhat after the interval. However, James Middlebrook hit a bright 20, an innings entirely made up of boundaries, and Richard Blakey prevented a more dramatic collapse with his third half- century of the campaign. Blakey hit six fours from 85 balls in reaching 50 but then became Hyam's sixth victim when he edged Irani and departed for 51.

The Yorkshire all-rounder Gavin Hamilton, who chalked up new career-best bowling figures of six for 50 as Yorkshire bowled out Essex for 200 yesterday, was celebrating - in company with his fellow seamer Paul Hutchison - the award of his county cap.

He completed the second day by announcing he is from now on available for selection for England, despite having already represented his native Scotland.

As Hamilton reflected on his third consecutive five-wicket haul in the Championship and potentially a match- winning position for Yorkshire, who reached 40 for 1 in reply to Essex's efforts, he finally settled the uncertainty surrounding his international future.

Asked about his commitment to competing for Scotland in future - notably in next summer's World Cup in England - Hamilton said: "I do not think it is much of a decision to make any more. I have spoken to Scotland director of cricket Jim Love about it today, and he is backing me in what I have decided. If I am in contention, from now I am available for England."