Cricket: Lathwell lightens scene

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The Independent Online
Somerset 356; Sussex 18-1

THESE are the dog-days of the cricket season. Shins ache, respectability is all that most counties have to compete for, and fielders no longer clap every other ball - not even Sussex - as they once did in enthusiastic May.

Yesterday at Taunton was in tune, an all too typical case of three-day county cricket. Sussex put Somerset in to bat on a cloudless day, with one eye on the green pitch and bowling them out cheaply. But the other, perhaps more purposeful, eye was on a last-day declaration target, set by Chris Tavare, for Sussex to chase.

Andy Hayhurst played dutifully and straight, and might have been unfortunate in the decision against him. Richard Harden, on reaching 41 in the course of his square-driving, became the first Somerset batsman to a thousand runs this season, his first as vice- captain.

In the late afternoon, Ian Salisbury persevered as a leg-spinner must, and took 5 for 8 with his last 34 balls. Somerset, though, were hitting out with a view to declare. Salisbury's victims featured Tavare, in carefree mood, who was caught at slip in trying to drive his 100th run; the tall Rob Turner, in his first game as keeper after Neil Burns's omission; and Neil Mallender, cheered to the wicket, by some opponents, too, as the returning hero.

Yet there was a highlight to the day, in the form of Mark Lathwell. In the first hour he batted a bit like Gimblett must have done, hitting 11 fours from 59 balls while Franklyn Stephenson found considerable bounce.

Hands well apart on the handle, brief of backlift, Lathwell drives and forces with the wristiness of a more robust Azharuddin, and hits straighter, off either foot. When he was caught off a bouncer, in that infuriating way down the leg-side, something went out of the day, some freshness, though the sun continued to bake the Quantocks brown.