Cricket: Essex wary in victory

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The Independent Online
Warwickshire . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .448 and 206

Essex. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .384-4 dec and 273-7

Essex win by three wickets

PAUSING between backing long shots in the betting tent, Mark Waugh is unlikely to have been too perturbed at the painstaking manner in which his old team-mates at Essex and their Trent Bridge quartet took the spoils yesterday. Had Warwickshire been less wanton in the field, the outcome could have been reversed.

A year ago, with Waugh in the saddle, the champions, pursuing 271 on a largely blameless surface, would have been odds on to wrap things up by tea. With just one win behind them this season, however, the memory of Warwickshire's collapse on Saturday instilled a degree of caution not readily associated with the vibrant Essex combos of recent vintage. The job still gets done, but the execution no longer raises spirits.

That said, it all looked a bit of a stroll when Gooch and John Stephenson began with a confident stand of 114. Having seen off Donald, they concentrated on dismantling Warwickshire's sole twirler, Neil Smith, Stephenson drilling two boundaries in the off-spinner's first over, Gooch thumping a full toss for six in his second. A shrewder captain might have persisted, but Dermot Reeve decided that was enough and put himself on.

Smith returned after lunch to pin Gooch leg-before but even then Reeve showed little faith and recalled Tim Munton. Paul Prichard added a brisk 59 with Stephenson before flicking Paul Smith to square leg, whereupon Munton, who earlier had Stephenson missed at the wicket, spilled Salim Malik at slip. Piran Holloway's fallible gloves then spared Stephenson on 64 but made amends with a fine catch in Gladstone Small's next over.

Nasser Hussain was in understandably light-headed mood, unfurling two glorious boundaries off Paul Smith only to carve lazily at the other Smith and hole out.

Reeve's continued reluctance to deploy Neil Smith in long spells was as unfathomable as it was self-defeating. Derek Pringle pulled Munton through midwicket with 17 overs to spare, but it was never remotely as comfortable as that.