Cricket: Essex seek a new deal

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Essex. . . . . . . . . . . . . .450-8 dec and 106-1

Nottinghamshire. . . . . . . . .379-6 dec

THE thought occurs that by the time their match against Warwickshire begins at Ilford on Thursday, the perspective of Essex's Championship campaign may have taken on a significant change.

Should Graham Gooch carry out his threat and leave England seeking a new captain, you can be sure that if anyone profits it will be Essex. Whatever else may be said of him, Gooch has never lacked enthusiasm for the county game and the shedding of one set of responsibilites would leave him free to concentrate on another; and the road to a third consecutive title lies open ahead of him.

It would help if Essex can go to Ilford bolstered by a victory here, although getting it will not be an easy matter on a pitch that so far has made the bowlers work the harder. After declaring in arrears yesterday, Nottinghamshire captain Tim Robinson watched his attack put in 48 overs of admirable effort in the evening sunshine for the reward of only one wicket. Without Neil Foster and Peter Such, Essex will have their work cut out tomorrow afternoon.

To begin with, sadly, Notts will almost certainly need to turn friendly in the morning, much in the way that brought three-day cricket a bad name. Essex, 106-1 at the close, are 177 ahead and look likely to need a helping hand if their time-and-runs calculations are to work out.

The pace of the cricket for much of the day rarely rose above the pedestrian and when Notts were building their response to Essex's first innings total there were ample interludes for the spectators dotted around the ground to ponder the void that must be filled here next season.

It was already known that Chris Cairns, their New Zealand all- rounder, would miss half of next summer to play on his country's England tour. Now Cairns has announced that his absence will last all season and his performance in Notts' recovery yesterday thus had a bitter-sweet taste.

With two more Test series scheduled for next winter, Cairns believes he will need a break. Considering that he is only a week into his 24th year, that such remedial treatment is already required may cause raised eyebrows but perhaps it says something for the demands inflicted by a congested international programme.

Viewed another way, it might be seen as a Test star delivering a snub to county cricket but Cairns can answer any charge. Last season he fell just short of 1,000 first- class runs and took 54 championship wickets. He has 20 wickets so far this year and yesterday's 80 took his runs aggregate to 516 in 10 innings.

Without it, Notts might have found themselves in an uncomfortable predicament. After resuming at 174-2, they lost both overnight batsmen in close succession after Essex introduced the left arm spin of John Childs.

But this brought Cairns into partnership with Graeme Archer, a 22-year-old right-hander with scant experience but much promise. After a tentative start here he offered the New Zealander impressive support in a stand that dismissed the notion that Notts might need to follow on and ultimately had the Essex attack looking somewhat world weary.