Cricket: Hussain's golden touch wins day

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Essex 258-7 Yorkshire 163 Essex won by 95 runs

ESSEX MAY not be quite the daunting force they once were but, having upset the odds by beating Warwickshire to collect the NatWest Trophy last September, they are going to Lord's again next month with designs on landing the Benson and Hedges Cup in its final year.

After a grim weather forecast, it always seemed likely that rain would play some part, but mercifully the contest escaped with only two stoppages before Robert Rollins's stumping of Ryan Sidebottom completed a 95-run victory for Essex at 6.55pm as Yorkshire were bowled out for 163 in 42.4 overs, losing their last six wickets for 50 runs.

Essex arrived here as underdogs and relished the experience, just as Nasser Hussain, the acting captain while Paul Prichard recovers from shin splints, had predicted.

Indeed, no one revelled in it more than Hussain himself, who put the personal disappointment of an unlucky Edgbaston Test behind him to lead the side to the brink of victory by producing the day's key individual performance, which earned the Gold Award.

Hussain's mature, measured 78 - undisturbed by a collision with Yorkshire's wicketkeeper, Richard Blakey - enabled Essex to recover from a calamitous start after David Byas had won the toss and decided to bowl first following the tireless work of the groundstaff to mop up following Monday's deluge and ensure an 11 o'clock start.

Hussain had seen Darren Robinson leg before wicket to the first ball of the match and watched with growing pessimism as strike bowlers Chris Silverwood and Paul Hutchison combined to reduce Essex to 33 for 3 in eight overs, making light of the absence of the injured Darren Gough.

But with Ronnie Irani offering valuable support, Hussain decided there was no point in being negative and a partnership of 83 in 18 overs gave Essex a platform on which Paul Grayson and Danny Law were able to make the most significant additions, Law putting on 56 in the last four overs in an unbroken partnership with Ashley Cowan.

There was some life in the wicket to reward accurate bowling and Sidebottom, the fourth member of a Yorkshire pace quartet and their leading AXA League bowler, justified his inclusion ahead of spinner Richard Stemp by undoing Irani with extra bounce and later trapping Hussain in front as the England player, who had by then faced 122 balls and gathered six boundaries, attempted to work the ball off his legs.

But the more effective bowling came from the less daunting but more disciplined Essex attack, whose early successes matched those of Yorkshire as the home side slipped to 29 for 3 in their first eight overs.

Darren Lehmann and Anthony McGrath plotted a Yorkshire recovery, but their progress was slow as Essex applied the brake and the asking rate was always eluding them.

During one frustrating passage, Yorkshire failed to take a run off the bat for 24 deliveries as the nigglingly accurate Irani bowled consecutive maidens, sandwiching one by Peter Such.

Crucially, Such then had Lehmann caught behind before Grayson, whose left-arm spin yielded three wickets in his eight overs, bowled McGrath, who batted for 105 minutes in making a rather inadequate 39.