Cricket: Level head of captain Cox
Somerset v Middlesex
Sunday 25 July 1999
His decision to add to the overnight lead of 428 was probably made with the consideration that the ever-injured Paul Jarvis was again missing in action - a strained groin the culprit. He might have been unavailable to take the field but it did not stop the sparse crowd from featuring him in their deliberations as the cricket meandered a soulless path to oblivion. As he is paid on a match-by-match basis, does he only receive a half-fee if he is unable to complete the game? Unlikely in the age of player power and no doubt a great relief to his bank manager.
Without him, the bulk of the bowling was done by the hard-working Jason Kerr, Steffan Jones and Keith Parsons. Matt Bulbeck did bowl a lengthy first spell in the morning heat but the stage was set for a high-class tweaker or wrist spinner.
There was definitely a suggestion of spin for Cox when he bowled himself but it would have been more fun to see the man he replaced as overseas player in action. Oh yes, the Mushtaq Ahmed of a few years ago would have bounced, twirled, shouted and smiled as he spun a web of deceit and illusion to confuse the batters.
Still the idea of two divisions was to promote competitive cricket where "no quarter was asked and none given", and with only a point separating the two counties before the match started, it was both heartening and dispiriting at the same time to see that there was a hard edge about Cox's decision.
Why give Middlesex the chance of victory when your bowling resources are depleted by Test calls and injury? It may have been disappointing for the crowd but it will be forgotten if, come September, Somerset are in the top half of the table and in Division One next year.
Somerset's paucity of strike bowlers will be further compounded when Bulbeck plays in the Under-19 series against Australia, when he will once again meet the tenacity that Justin Langer displayed yesterday. The Australian watchfully played himself in before passing 1,000 first-class runs for the season with his fourth century of the season.
His achievement was matched by his partner in the middle, Owais Shah, whose talent is beyond dispute and yesterday he allied discipline to his natural elegance. If he could add some steel to the style, England would truly have a world-beater. God knows we need one.
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