Cricket: Robinson fills vacancy

Worcestershire 394 & 99-5 Essex 451
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The Independent Online
The boots that Darren Robinson has to step into may be a pretty daunting size, but at least the cap fits. Robinson, 24, revealed tenacity, timing and temperament as he compiled a career-best 148, his first for two years and only the third of his career. If anyone had any doubts about his ability to take over the vacant opening spot from Graham Gooch, those fears should have been dispelled yesterday.

It was quite an occasion for Robinson, topped off for him when the Essex captain, Paul Prichard, presented the civil engineer with his county cap during the tea interval. On the evidence of his mammoth six-and-a-half hours at the crease, Robinson is unlikely to miss many chances to fill his boots, even if doing the same with Gooch's takes a while longer.

It had been a peculiar day. It had a strange enough start and a bizarre end. Worcestershire contrived to lose three wickets in 17 balls to leave themselves facing almost certain defeat today. They had begun their second innings 57 runs behind and lost openers Tim Curtis and Tom Moody before they were level. Disaster then struck shortly before the close when Stuart Laws' leg-spin accounted for the first and second-choice nightwatchmen Steven Rhodes and Gavin Haynes in three balls.

And before any of that, Peter Edwards, the Essex secretary-manager, made an official statement to the effect that neither the club nor himself were in any way annoyed at the manner in which Gooch had announced his retirement (through a Sunday newspaper article).

It was then revealed that Gooch was spending that part of the day signing 300 scorecards in gold ink, the limited edition to be sold at pounds 5 each within 15 minutes of the end of the match today, the proceeds to go 50 per cent to the club and at Gooch's insistence, the balance to be a contribution to Alan Lilley's benefit fund. A nice gesture.

Gooch's chore was probably more interesting than watching the virtual inaction out in the middle. The Essex plan had been to bat themselves - all day if necessary - into a substantial lead of around 150, but they got a bit bogged down, finishing in no man's land 57 runs in front.

Even Ronnie Irani, usually so explosive, was on a long fuse which fizzled out. Together with Robinson, a watchful 56 runs were added for the fifth wicket in 30 overs. A further three wickets fell before Essex nosed ahead and it began to look as if they had lost direction. The crowd were losing their patience and there were repeated calls for the batsmen to get on with it, but it was not until the last man, Steve Andrew, emerged that they were appeased.

Andrew's 24, allied to the wicket of Moody, turned him into some sort of a hero. Moody, who had scored all but 10 of those first 51 runs, was the second wicket to fall. Curtis's last innings here ended when he was caught at slip off the bowling of Peter Such, the off-spinner also accounting for Reuben Spiring.