Cricket: Essex rein in talent

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Essex 362

Gloucestershire 266-8

CHELMSFORD'S scorecard advertised suntan lotions, sunglasses and umbrellas for sale at the Essex shop, but only the last were in demand. Just six overs and four balls were bowled before persistent drizzle halted play, which was finally called off at 4.25pm.

Gloucestershire, starting the day some 111 runs behind Essex's first innings with three wickets in hand, added four more when Mike Smith drove loosely at Michael Kasprowicz and was caught at cover by Paul Prichard. Mark Davies and Courtney Walsh put on a further 11 before the rain forced the players off, leaving Gloucestershire still 96 runs adrift.

For Essex's loyal supporters, huddled under new umbrellas, the only consolation was to monitor Graham Gooch's progress towards his double-century at Trent Bridge.

It was particularly frustrating for Essex, who had won three out of four outings, taking them to third place in the Championship. At the start of the day they looked like taking a healthy first-innings lead with plenty of time to set a decent target for Gloucestershire.

As they seek their third Championship in five years, Essex's approach to seeking out new talent remains enterprising. With Gooch and Peter Such on Test duty, three of the team for this match are only 22 years old: Ronnie Irani, Richard Pearson, and Kasprowicz, none of whom is an Essex man by birth.

Irani was an outstanding prospect as a teenager, but was let go by his native Lancashire after only nine games in five seasons. Pearson, a former Cambridge Blue, was snapped up from Northamptonshire and has impressed with his off- breaks in this, his debut match in place of Such. His wicketkeeper, Mike Garnham, described him as 'a revelation'. And to bring the raw Kasprowicz from Australia as their overseas player was a big gamble, which looks like paying off. He has taken 24 wickets so far this season and showed in the Essex first innings he has the ability to be a useful tail-end hitter, with three sixes in his 43.

Essex's approach to their spectators is also to be commended. They offered entrance money back at 2.15pm, although a decision to abandon play for the day had not been made by then.