Cricket: Gamble on Cox bears fruit

Somerset v Yorkshire
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DERMOT REEVE, Somerset's coach, says that any overseas player you get is a bit of a gamble. His gamble on Jamie Cox, a 29-year-old opening batsman from Tasmania, looks like a shrewd one already. Not many people in county cricket have heard of Cox, but by the end of the season they will.

Yorkshire are among the favourites for the Championship, but they have been steadily outplayed since the first day when Cox scored 173, immediately endearing himself to the home crowd in his first performance in front of them.

Subsequently Somerset bowled straight on a good length, swung the ball and chased Yorkshire out for 148. Even when they fought back stubbornly in the second innings, led by a fine 90 with 15 fours from their captain David Byas, it never seemed likely that Yorkshire would save the game.

Byas's was the second captain's innings because Cox is captain, too. He was one of a number of players considered by Reeve and the chief executive, Peter Anderson. They got a good video of his play from Cox's agent, and Reeve liked what he saw when he went to inspect the goods at first hand in Sydney last winter.

Reeve was looking for a captain who was a team leader as well as a reliable bat, and had despaired of finding one here. ("County cricket's such a profession that they get selfish and look after themselves," he says.) Cox is actually vice-captain of Tasmania - Durham's David Boon is the captain there - but Reeve thought that character would compensate for inexperience and hired him to do both jobs. Reeve sees the captain as the key figure in a county cricket team. He speaks as a retired captain himself, and he compares the captain's job to the manager of a football team. "In county cricket, it's the captain's ship. He pulls the strings on the field. At the moment, I'm still the chairman of the selectors, but will pass to Jamie too."

There was evidence that Cox has another vital quality in a captain - luck. As lunch approached, Byas and Matthew Wood were building a fourth- wicket stand towards 100. Byas was imperious on the leg side; Wood forceful and elegant through the covers.

When the partnership reached 90, Wood sent a sharp chance ankle-high off a thick edge to the left of Cox fielding at gully; he dived, got his hands to the ball and, to his mortification, dropped it. His error was redeemed only two balls later, however, when the promising Wood got a thinner edge which carried easily to first slip.

That was not the end of Yorkshire's resistance, but it was the beginning of the end. Tony McGrath never looked entirely convincing, but stayed while Byas and Craig White departed the crease.

Somerset were showing the persistence of a team that may become just as good a Championship prospect as Yorkshire was when game began.