Cricket: James' time is near

Worcestershire v Glamorgan
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The Independent Online
Suddenly, a new candidate has emerged for England. Steve James is the batsman being freely touted, although his is the sort of overnight fame achieved by actors who have spent a couple of decades in rep before Hollywood calls. James has not been out of form for around two years now and, when he at last got into bat at New Road yesterday, on the sort of pitch that bowlers would gladly murder at birth, he batted with the assurance of a man who knows his time may have come but realises he has only three hours left to offer further proof to the selectors.

He glided his first ball through his favourite old hunting area wide of the slips to the boundary and then picked off some modest bowling with authority. He profited through the covers and point, called the odd one to mid-wicket and reached his 50 in 49 balls with 11 boundaries. When he reached 39 it was also the 10,000th first-class run of his career.

If this helped to advance James' claims it was also precisely what Glamorgan required. They had been kept in the field until mid-afternoon after losing the toss on Friday as Worcestershire assembled a total large enough to demand patience and time to match and was also of the type designed to ensure fourth-innings runs chases.

Not totally perfect Championship cricket, but it was all pleasant enough as the sides traded runs and wickets in the morning. When Glamorgan sent back Tom Moody in the day's ninth over there was the glimmer of a chance that they might restrict them to under 400, the sort of score which constitutes claps on this surface.

The thought was fleeting as the lower order blazed merrily away, Stuart Lampitt lofting two sixes off an otherwise blameless Robert Croft. It was to Croft's credit that he bowled with such commendable fortitude. He had a disappointing Test, was involved in a much televised argument with Mark Ilott at Chelmsford in the NatWest Trophy semi-final, was fined pounds 1,000 by the county and now faces and ECB disciplinary hearing on Tuesday. The authorities seem to be attempting to make a brawl out of what was no more than a heated exchange of words and a shove between friends.

Glamorgan and Croft had to pick themselves up quickly to maintain the impetus of their challenge for their third Championship title. They could have done without losing the toss but could also have done without tossing away wickets. Hugh Morris was caught at slip, Adrian Dale pulled on a long hop and Mike Powell was stumped for a duck in his first Championship match. When James was caught off an inside edge Glamorgan's chances became slimmer. But the batsman had already done enough to enhance his own.