The Leicestershire huddle was back with a vengeance yesterday as Somerset tumbled to defeat in the quarter-finals of the Benson and Hedges Cup on a used pitch that offered plenty to the bowlers but little certainty to the batsmen. It was a state of affairs superbly exploited by David Millns, whose inspired opening spell of 3 for 36 stopped the visitors' reply in its tracks after the home side had been bowled out for 197.
It should have been less but, after having their opponents reeling at 14 for 3, Somerset then contrived to drop three catches, two of them by Richard Harden at first slip. As two of those chances came from the bat of James Whittaker - the game's highest scorer - when he was on three and 23, "The culprit," as Judge Jeffreys might have said before placing the noose, "stands guilty before you." He was not granted a reprieve after batting either, Millns removing him lbw for a duck.
There were three wickets too for Alan Mullally, though the last one, Andy Caddick, caught down the leg-side for 38, was far more crucial than the first two, as the fast bowler threatened to put Somerset back in contention with a 60-run partnership for the eighth wicket with Rob Turner.
It was Caddick's highest score in the competition, and although it will be his bowling that England may be looking to when the Ashes gets under way, two heartily struck sixes and a brace of cover drives proved he is no fool with the bat.
What intrigued many however, was Somerset's decision to field first with three spinners in their side. Mind you, their coach, Dermot Reeve, has made a playing career out of being contrary, although batting last on a patchy pitch clearly at its best last Sunday - when Surrey's Alistair Brown scored an unbeaten 157 - defied even Reeve's warped logic.
Indeed sanity did not much prevail among the batsmen of either side, and only Ben Smith with 57 played with the required amount of application, as he and Whittaker, with a more flamboyant and fortunate 61 to his name, added 102 in 22 overs for the fourth wicket.
Aftab Habib, unbeaten on 43 when Caddick removed the last man Matthew Brimson, also batted well, a fact only fully appreciated when Somerset had plunged to 115 for 8.
As in the Leicestershire innings, it was a parlous situation largely of their own doing. Simon Ecclestone and Mark Lathwell both dragged-on and Michael Burns edged one he did well to reach.
Unluckiest of all, however, must have been Graham Rose, who took the first three wickets of the day. He was caught at mid-wicket off Vince Wells, after Millns, the Gold Award winner, drifted out of position.
n The Sussex pace bowler Jason Lewry hopes to get the go-ahead to resume training in early June, four months after he underwent surgery on a stress fracture in his lower back. The 26-year-old left-armer is working towards being fit for the match against the champions, Leicestershire, at Eastbourne in 10 weeks' time.