Cricket: Saxelby's startling start

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The Independent Online
Durham 441-3 v Derbyshire

Even Ray Illingworth comes unstuck sometimes. The new chairman of selectors, continuing his peregrinations in search of English bowling talent, chose Queen's Park as his destination yesterday. And why not? The day was fine, the ground has a reputation for generously helping seam bowling and Derbyshire were reputedly strong in this department.

Alas for Illingworth, the groundsman produced a benign batting strip (to the undisguised chagrin of the Derbyshire captain, Kim Barnett) on which Mark Saxelby more or less stole the show on his first appearance for Durham by making their highest individual score, 181, which, remarkably, was also his maiden first-class hundred.

With only 36 Championship games behind him, Saxelby, reluctantly released last year by Nottinghamshire, needed a fair amount of luck around his off stump, particularly against Devon Malcolm and the new ball. But the sight of Wayne Larkins at the other end dispatching the half-volleys and other dross as only he can would have eased any pressure the occasion put on Saxelby.

By the time Larkins surprisingly shuffled into an lbw decision, they had cruised to 169 in only 45 overs. Not much had gone right for Derbyshire, who had Phil DeFreitas and Colin Wells starting fresh careers. Both had problems of length and line in conditions where there was no margin for error.

Eventually, Saxelby wearily chased a wide one after hitting 26 fours and two sixes in a five and a quarter hour stay.