Cricket: Mahmud's stirring century sinks Essex

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The Independent Online

KHALED MAHMUD scored a century to steer Bangladesh to a narrow victory over Essex but Gavin Hamilton's unbeaten 91 was not quite enough for Scotland against Durham as two of the minnows prepared for their precious moment on the World Cup stage.

Bangladesh, the ICC Trophy winners, lost their openers without a run on the board at Chelmsford, but Amninul Islam played the captain's part to perfection with an inspiring, well-crafted 43. But it was when Akram Khan and Mahmud joined forces for a fifth-wicket stand that the innings really took off. They put on 75 runs in 15 overs before Khan fell to Paul Grayson for 58.

Mahmud, though, went on to provide the lion's share of a testing target. After bringing up his 50 in 65 balls, he accelerated and rattled up his second 50 in only 25 balls and included four sixes off the bowling of the internationals, Stuart Law, Peter Such and Mark Ilott.

Mahmud's career-best 108 helped Bangladesh to a final total of 263 for 7, which, after a lengthy break for rain, left Essex chasing a revised target of 205 off 34 overs. The openers Paul Pritchard and Law started brightly but the run rate was soon into double figures. Mohammed Rafique tore the heart out of the Essex batting, taking four wickets as the county lost by five runs.

Gavin Hamilton, who had harboured hopes of wearing the lighter blue of England, boosted his reputation as an all-rounder with a striking performance as Scotland fell only two runs short of beating Durham at Chester-le- Street.

He took two wickets to slow the county side as they threatened to build an impossible target. In the event it took stubborn innings from David Boon, who scored 50, and Jonathan Lewis, with 77, to carry Durham to 238 for 5.

Scotland then slumped to 21 for 3 before Hamilton set about his rescue act, the Yorkshire player linking with Mike Smith in a century partnership. Smith went for 61, but Hamilton heroically carried on and was within one shot of conujuring a stunning victory for Scotland.