Cricket: Gooch gives way to youth

Worcestershire 394 Essex 230-3
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The Independent Online
Even before the throne room had been cleared the Essex faithful were able to salute Graham Gooch's likely successor for the opening spot. Darren Robinson only had to wait 34 minutes for his chance to show what he could do. That was how long it took Worcestershire to winkle out Gooch in what may have been the last innings of his distinguished career.

He could have one final shot if the weather and circumstances allow Essex a second innings, but the forecast is gloomy and the way the 24-year-old Robinson batted they may be able to pile up the runs in reasonably rapid time. Gooch was bowled round his legs by left-arm seamer Alamgir Sheriyar off the 26th delivery of his innings for a paltry 11. His aggregate of 369 runs this season at an average of 23.06 says it all.

He had gone out to a standing ovation at the start of his 650th innings for the county he has served so nobly for 25 seasons, the sizeable crowd willed him to succeed, but it wasn't to be. He returned to the dressing room to muted, sympathetic applause and that was that.

But Paul Prichard, Gooch's successor as captain, and Robinson then proceeded to show what younger eyes and hands could do as they flayed the Worcestershire attack for almost three hours, accumulating 182 runs for the second wicket. They made batting look easy on an amiable track and their obvious understanding suggests big opening stands in the future.

Prichard, who took over the captaincy in 1995, was finally dismissed driving a return catch to Vikram Solanki when he had made 120, his highest first-class score since September 1993. Robinson stayed there though, his quality innings leaving him perfectly poised for three figures and at the same time reassuring Essex followers that there should be no problem as far as continuity is concerned now that Gooch is stepping down.

It really was a day for the young bloods. Earlier Reuben Spiring took his overnight 119 to a career best 150 before he was caught by Stuart Law attempting to sweep a Paul Grayson delivery after spending six hours and 20 minutes at the crease, during which time he ensured Worcestershire picked up maximum batting points for only the third time this season.

Spiring, 22, spent last winter in Perth playing Grade cricket and while he was there he came under the tutelage of Peter Carlstein, Adam and Ben Hollioake's batting mentor. Spiring said: "Peter has worked wonders with Adam and Ben and if I can emulate them I'll be laughing."

Whether any of them will get even close to Gooch's batting achievements remains to be seen. Right now his 44,841 first class runs at an average of 49.11 in his lengthy career must seem a long way away to all of them.