Cricket: Habib ensures suvival after Maddy failure

Glamorgan 291 Leicestershire 259 Match Drawn
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The Independent Online
WITH ALMOST two-thirds of the playing time lost to the weather on the first three days, this match needed an injection of old-time collusion for any result other than a draw. In the event neither side was keen to play ball, settling instead for more bonus points.

The way Leicestershire have batted of late, it came as no surprise when the county champions contrived to lose their first three batsmen for 30 runs inside 15 overs. Their own David Millns, bowling fast and straight, had already shown there was something here for fast bowlers when he wrapped up the Glamorgan innings within five overs of play starting on time under unseasonably blue skies. He plucked out Simon Jones's off-stump as the left-hander tried to withdraw his bat and knocked back Owen Parkin's off- stump, leaving Michael Powell 71 not out. That brought Leicestershire a fourth bowling point but Glamorgan's additional 21 runs went unrewarded.

Vince Wells might have been lbw to the first ball of the Leicestershire innings, Darren Thomas nipping a very sharp "loosener" into his pad. But it was the Welshman's outswinger that Wells half-heartedly edged to the wicketkeeper to begin the slump. Darren Maddy's dismissal was equally disappointing, especially from a batsman being talked up as an England opener. Dropped at first slip when five off the rangy Parkin, Maddy had added only five more when he poked a long-hop from Adrian Dale to Ismail Dawood in the gully.

Next over, the 15th, Iain Sutcliffe was caught behind off the glove, unable to avoid a sharply rising delivery from the distinctly lively Simon Jones. Scion of Jeff, who opened the bowling for Glamorgan and England in the Sixties, Jones the Son, just 20, demonstrated effectively that he has the right stuff for fast bowling when he dumped Maddy on his backside with a searing yorker which took the batsman's feet away.

Either side of lunch, however, Ben Smith and Aftab Habib dampened the visitors' enthusiasm with a stand of 144 in 29 overs. Smith led the resurgence with exquisite shots all round the wicket, his 82 coming from 97 balls and containing 13 boundaries. Habib, dropped at slip when 14, played a delightful second fiddle and then added 61 with Paul Nixon before Thomas and Jones struck back after the rain-extended tea interval to take the day's honours.

The Glamorgan fast bowlers' success did raise the question of how their batting would have fared had Alan Mullally played. Apparently the England left-armer felt somewhat precious after England's early exit from the World Cup and chose to sit this game out. Fair enough. It has always been the Leicestershire captain James Whitaker's philosophy that a player is not worth having on the field if he isn't fully motivated.

Whitaker is mentioned in connection with the vacant England management job. So, too, is Duncan Fletcher, the man who guided Glamorgan to the Championship in the year between Leicestershire's two titles. Back in charge after a year's absence with Western Province in South Africa, the Zimbabwean would bring to the table the ability to motivate and focus players that is so desperately needed by England. Any side that underperforms so consistently requires more than a technical coach. England need man management that will get them playing at peak performance throughout a whole game, a whole series. They have to learn that international cricket is more than a few flashy outings. But it will take a harder man than an English coach to make that connection.