Cricket: Last call for birthday boy Gooch

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The Independent Online
Graham Gooch will have no easy ride on his birthday as he brings down the curtain on 24 years of professional cricket with Essex in the Championship match with Worcestershire beginning today at Chelmsford.

Gooch, 44 today, will be looking for Essex to bounce back from the weekend defeat by Northamptonshire, which denied them the chance to take over the leadership from Glamorgan.

The Welsh county hope to have Waqar Younis and Steve Watkin back as they seek to extend their 11-point advantage at the top with victory over bottom club Derbyshire at Chesterfield. Middle-order batsman Anthony Cottey is doubtful for Glamorgan with a hamstring strain.

Unbeaten Leicestershire are expected to be unchanged against Nottinghamshire at Grace Road after wicketkeeper Paul Nixon declared himself fit following a thumb injury.

Mohammad Akram and Mal Loye are both injury doubts as Northamptonshire chase a third consecutive victory against Surrey, while Kevin Curran is out for up to three weeks after breaking both thumbs against Essex. Darren Bicknell and Ian Ward return to the Surrey side, and wicketkeeper Jonathan Batty makes his Championship debut.

Jacques Kallis and Jamie Hewitt are both expected to return for fourth- placed Middlesex against fifth-placed Kent at Lord's after being rested from the match against the Australians.

Third-placed Gloucestershire will be looking to further enforce their title credentials at Cheltenham against Durham, who have left paceman Melvyn Betts out. Batsman Robin Weston is in their squad and could be preferred to either Mike Roseberry or Nick Speak.

Hampshire have resisted making changes against Lancashire after their nine-wicket defeat by Surrey. Lancashire recall Andrew Flintoff, Nathan Wood and Mark Chilton.

The game between Warwickshire and Somerset has been put back 24 hours to accommodate tonight's Axa Life League game which will be the first competitive game in this country under floodlights.

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