Cricket: Extra Cover

A Week In Cricket by David Llewellyn
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The Independent Online
Group therapy with

the Chelmsford exiles

MAN IN THE MIDDLE

Paul Grayson (Essex)

Chelmsford has become something of a rehabilitation centre over the years.

Essex has an uncanny knack of resuscitating playing careers that other counties have apparently given up on. Paul Grayson is the latest recruit to head south-east, following a path trodden by John Childs, Peter Such and Ronnie Irani.

When Grayson realised last year, towards the end of what had been for him a miserable season, that Yorkshire were not going to stand in the way of a move elsewhere, Essex was the first place he looked.

"I'd always enjoyed playing at Chelmsford," says Grayson, who turned his back on a possible career in football when he rejected a Middlesbrough offer nine years ago, at the age of 16 (his brother Simon is something of a success in Leicester City's defence). "There are good wickets for me to bat on with a tradition of some turn, which suits my bowling, and they are a good side, they know how to win trophies."

But he is at pains to explain his departure from Yorkshire was an amicable one. "I left Yorkshire on good terms. They could have contested my move if they had wanted to, but they didn't and that was very good of them."

Grayson, who is being groomed as a possible successor to Graham Gooch, has been opening the Essex innings with the old master recently; a spell culminating in a career-best 140 in the first innings of comprehensive victory over Middlesex, but he is also working on his orthodox left-arm spin.

To that end he enjoys a bit of group therapy with some other exiles. "I have been working on my bowling since I arrived here," he explains. "John Childs and Peter Such have been good to me and Eddie Hemmings was with us pre-season and is now popping in once a week and they have all helped me."

Grayson's wife, Alison, still lives in a village between Leeds and Bradford. He takes a lot of stick about the village's name - Idle - particularly since this hard-working man has his sights set on higher things: "I would like to get on the England A tour to Australia this winter." He is well on the way to attracting the right sort of attention, with more than 700 runs and some useful wickets, but he is not going to sit back on that. "I'm going to work on my batting and my bowling. I have to make sure my name comes up at selection meetings."

Active thoughts from an Idle man.

Golden arm 1 (Bowling performance of the week)

Peter Hartley (Yorkshire)

Not content with his highest score of the season in the first innings against Sussex, Hartley then produced a superb performance with the ball to pick up the first 10-wicket match haul of his career with 6 for 67 and 4 for 86. The only disappointment was that despite a fine all-round performance Yorkshire were beaten by two wickets.

Golden arm 2 (Bowling performance of the week)

Dean Headley (Kent)

The pedigree is showing through. A second hat-trick - and only the third at the St Lawrence Ground - in successive championship matches. Headley followed up his efforts last week at Derby by knocking over Tom Moody (bowled), Reuben Spiring (caught Carl Hooper), Vikram Solanki (bowled) in the match against Worcestershire at Canterbury.

Team of the week

1 Steve James Glamorgan

2 Marcus Trescothick Somerset

3 Vince Wells Leicestershire

4 Graeme Hick Worcestershire

5 Paul Grayson Essex

6 *Adam Hollioake Surrey

7 Kevin Curran Northamptonshire

8 Wayne Noon Nottinghamshire

9 Peter Hartley Yorkshire

10 Philip DeFreitas Derbyshire

11 Matthew Brimson Leicestershire

Quote of the week

'Listening to the news. Graeme Hick's place under real threat for second Test. Apparently he needs a huge score in his next game. Guess who we're playing next?' Kent's Matthew Fleming in his column two days before Hick hit 148 at Canterbury.

Rain check

Hours lost to rain during the County Championship

1 Somerset 54.45

2 Lancashire 50.80

3 Gloucestershire 40.20

4 Sussex 38.30

5 Northamptonshire 37.70

6 Derbyshire 37.07

7 Durham 36.20

8 Middlesex. 33.60

9 Warwickshire 33.40

10 Surrey 31.39

11 Kent 30.97

12 Glamorgan 30.69

13 Worcestershire 30.30

14 Hampshire 30.09

15 Essex 28.30

16 Nottinghamshire 24.99

17 Leicestershire 22.90

18 Yorkshire 17.65

Hit man (Batting performance of the week)

Vince Wells (Leicestershire)

It seems he cannot do anything wrong this season. A second championship double-hundred, which took him past 1,000 runs for the first time. Since he also scored 201 in the NatWest first round and his only other first- class century was 197, it is no fluke. Wells has been opening the innings following the retirement of Nigel Briers and it is paying dividends.

Tales of the unexpected

Andy Hayhurst (Somerset)

About an hour before the start of the match with Hampshire, Hayhurst was summoned to see Brian Rose, chairman of cricket, who told him he would be playing in the Second XI henceforth, although he would retain the captaincy until the end of the season. Hayhurst's form this season - only twice past 50 and a next highest score of 15 - tells its own story.

Ancient and modern and an odd distraction

AROUND THE GROUNDS

No 13: SOUTHAMPTON

There is a cosy feel to Southampton, an intimacy that in the recent past was powerful enough to encourage a lady in a neighbouring block of flats to peel off as much as was decent and distract fielders in the deep and members of the binocular-armed press corps as she tanned herself in the skimpiest of bikinis.

It is not so much the size, although the lack of it is one of the reasons why Hampshire feel the time has come to expand on pastures new, but rather the way the buildings, ancient and modern, seem to huddle around the west side of the ground in protective fashion, preserving traditions and history for generations of cricketers and supporters alike.

Being so far from the docks, on the north side of the City, the place has few maritime memories, although in front of the stand hangs the bell from the Athlone Castle, broken up in 1965. The 1950s block which houses the offices and was opened by a Hampshire legend, Phil Mead, is something of an anachronism. It is outwardly a modern shell, but has displayed within and up the stairs to the scorers' room and press box artifacts from Hampshire's history: bats, caps, balls and manuscripts recording great feats on the field.

It is the third ground in the city to house the county side, Derbyshire were the first county side to be entertained at Northlands Road in 1885 - the year the ground was opened by the Countess of Northesk, wife of the then president of the club. Southampton FC used the ground in 1896- 97 but the facilities were incapable of coping with crowds of 12,000. Since then there have been some notable highlights including Gordon Greenidge's 177 in a Gillette Cup total of 371 for 4 against Glamorgan and Mike Procter's spell of 6 for 13 in the B&H semi-final in 1977.

Modern facilities are stretched. Bring your own seating, get to the pavilion early for good food or use the Sports and Squash Club facilities, popular with players after a day's play.

It's in the rules...

Law 7 (2): Selection and preparation of the pitch.

Before the toss for innings, the executive of the ground shall be responsible for the selection and preparation of the pitch.

With that in mind the acting Somerset captain Peter Bowler's decision to play on a greener looking wicket at Taunton something like an hour before the scheduled start, seemed to be allowing too little time for preparation.

As it was, Marcus Trescothick hit a big hundred, and Somerset crushed Hampshire. So the decision was vindicated, but Bowler was out for a duck.

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