Cricket: Hussain unfettered by England hearsay

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Essex 241-7; Yorkshire 194 Essex win by 47 runs

IF ACCOUNTS of his movements in the preceding 24 hours are accurate, Nasser Hussain had more on his mind than simply persuading Essex Eagles to give their CGU National League season a belated lift-off. The good news, if he is to captain the England side, is that his focus on cricket throughout days of speculation has not been disturbed.

Given that Yorkshire's attack was heavily depleted by injuries, Hussain's 114 was not especially meaningful. Yet on a sluggish pitch, it confirms he is bang in form and unaffected by the headlines. It follows scores of 59, 141 and 56 not out in the Championship and 65 in the League. Overall, in eight innings for Essex since England's World Cup failure, he has passed 50 six times, twice going on to a hundred.

Whatever was discussed when Hussain went to Lord's on Friday, it left him in a relaxed mood as he challenged Yorkshire Phoenix to chase a target that was ultimately beyond them. Essex won by 47 runs as the home side were bowled out for 194 in 42.5 overs.

Only David Byas and Anthony McGrath batted with the purpose required to give the leaders a chance of maintaining their unbeaten record but both perished without achieving full potential and Greg Blewett's painful occupation served mainly to emphasise how he has struggled in English conditions. His 16 first-class innings have realised only 289 runs.

Essex arrived bottom of the table with only one win, but their 31-year- old captain's second century in a week gave their season an overdue lift. Hussain organised three productive stands as Essex, having elected to bat first, reached 241 for 7 in their 45 overs. His 12-over alliances with Stuart Law, which ended with a brilliant catch taken by Richard Harden running backwards towards mid-off, and Paul Grayson, who was stumped off Michael Vaughan, were worth 52 and 62 respectively.

Hussain hit a dozen boundaries, driving Ian Fisher's left-arm spin with particular relish, as Yorkshire - without Chris Silverwood, Paul Hutchison, Craig White and Darren Gough due to injuries - struggled to bowl a containing line. Only when Danny Law arrived did Hussain allow someone else to take the initiative. Law blasted his first ball, from Vaughan, over the deep mid-wicket boundary and proceeded to hammer a brutal 38 off 16 balls. Another six off Vaughan wrecked the off-spinner's analysis after his first seven overs had cost only 24.

Yorkshire's captain Byas hit 16 off one over from Mark Ilott, including three boundaries, as the home side began their reply briskly. But after he was caught at cover off Ashley Cowan, the run rate fell behind the clock and never subsequently caught up. McGrath fired sixes off the spin of Peter Such and Grayson but holed out on the midwicket boundary for 38 off 31 balls. Even though Blewett was hard to shift, he needed 97 balls to reach 48 which, while his best in the competition, never achieved sufficient momentum.