Cricket: Irani marshalls Essex's talents

Glamorgan 210 Essex 211-5 Essex win by five wickets
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Ronnie Irani is clearly a man on a mission. Not content with being Essex's top-scorer in their first two games of the season, he made it three in a row yesterday, leading his team home over Glamorgan with an unbeaten 82, an innings whose decisiveness may go some way towards erasing the memory of a frustrating winter with England. With three wickets to boot, he was the deserving winner of the Benson and Hedges Gold Award.

Glamorgan have been something of a one-day bogey side for Essex - this was their first victory over them for five years. But if the margin of success - five wickets with over six overs to spare - looked comfortable, it spoke volumes about the way Irani fashioned Essex's victory, after they had plunged to 95 for 4 with Gooch, Prichard and Stuart Law all back in the pavilion.

With Nasser Hussain unlikely to bat after injuring his neck diving in the field, Irani's was a complex role which entailed the careful marshalling of first Danny Law then Robert Rollins. Pressure can sometimes compromise a player's natural game but Irani has learnt his lessons well and Glamorgan, particularly the bustling Darren Thomas, were flayed off back foot and front.

Thomas has plenty of pace and, by the look of the beauty he removed Law with, plenty of skill, too. However, there is a waywardness that makes Devon Malcolm look like Richard Hadlee. Yesterday he erred on the short side and his six overs cost 60 runs.

Mind you, there was little circumspection with the bat by Glamorgan, who were put in. Even the normally sedate Hugh Morris, as cautious a driver as exists among left-handers, put his foot down, twice carting sixes as Essex overpitched. With a double century in his last Championship match, he is in fine fettle. An Allan Donald bouncer may have dented his skull, but his confidence is unaffected.

Having lost both Steve James and Adrian Dale inside 15 overs, the latter to a swirling catch by Paul Grayson at mid-wicket, Morris continued his assault, helping to add 73 in 15 overs with his captain, Matthew Maynard, whose own brutal contribution included two huge mid-wicket hoicks for six into the old hospital.

While these two were together, a total of 300 or more looked possible and Essex's relief was palpable when Stuart Law ran in to catch Morris after he top-edged a sweep off Peter Such.

The dismissal appeared to set off a chain reaction not unknown among Welsh sheep, as the remainder of the side, beginning with Maynard, returned to their pen at regular intervals. Essex fought back well, with three of their bowlers, Ilott, Irani and Grayson, each taking three wickets.

There were five dismissals, including two neat stumpings, for Rollins, who, curiously, played with a finger still apparently fractured. In the end, Glamorgan's total, despite an early bout of Essex hiccups, was simply not robust enough to survive the middle-order onslaught led by Irani.