Cricket: Missing Lewis misses out on rare rout

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The Independent Online
Nottinghamshire 61 Leicestershire 27-1

THE TURBULENT career of England cricketer Chris Lewis took another wrong turn here yesterday when he was dropped from his county's vital Championship match against his former county, Nottinghamshire, and apparently went absent without leave.

On a day when Nottinghamshire were bowled out for 61, the lowest total of the Championship season, much of the attention centred on the absentee. The 30-year-old fast bowler, no stranger to controversy in a career that has seen him change counties three times, had been passed fit to play after missing three matches with a back injury. Lewis has been title-chasing Leicestershire's acting captain for much of this season, covering for the injured James Whitaker, but was left out of this match, along with his fellow pace bowler, David Millns, following a training session on Tuesday.

There were reports that the pair had been disciplined for arriving late but Whitaker would not confirm the story and chose his words carefully when asked to explain the team selection and it was difficult not to read between the lines. "The team was chosen from the players available on the basis of the conditions and the other factors that go into making a good team," Whitaker said. "I cannot say any more than that." However, speculation mounted when Lewis failed to appear at the Central Avenue ground yesterday. At a ground with a reputation for pitches that crumble, Leicestersire went into the match with two spinners and only two front- line seamers. The club's chairman, Roger Goadby, said he was unaware of any incident that might have given rise to disciplinary action but it seems likely that Leicestershire will have to make a statement today.

Lewis began his career with Leicestershire but left to take up a lucrative contract with Nottinghamshire. He joined Surrey after his relationship with the Trent Bridge club turned sour and spent two years at The Oval before rejoining Leicestershire at the start of this season.

He has been discarded and recalled several times by England but has put several noses out of joint since he was first called up in 1990, ruling himself out of one match on the basis of a headache and being left out of another after turning up late on the first morning, blaming a flat tyre.

In the circumstances, Leicestershire did not miss Lewis as Nottinghamshire were dismissed by 4pm in 29.3 overs, after rain delayed the start until 4pm. After their acting captain, Phil Simmons, had won the toss, the England discard Alan Mullally, released from the squad for the Test against Sri Lanka, took four of the first five wickets as Nottinghamshire slumped to 12 for 5 before Vince Wells achieved career-best figures of 5 for18 with his medium pace. The damp conditions played a part as Nottinghamshire were undone by movement off the seam and variations in bounce. Leicestershire were 27 for 1 in reply at the close.