Cricket: Simmons savages depleted Essex

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The Independent Online
Essex 218 and 22-2

Leicestershire 462

ESSEX'S world started to fall apart here the moment they took the new ball and sprayed it about. It was a luxury they could not afford, not with two frontline bowlers absent, not with only a modest total behind them and, above all, not with Phil Simmons at the crease.

Simmons gave Leicestershire the sort of breakneck start it is often difficult to check - even on a pitch which had rewards for those able to locate length and line - and they put some recent, indifferent batting performances behind them with some positive and powerful play yesterday.

If Simmons severely damaged Essex's morale by savaging bowling which was too short and wide, Paul Nixon and Gordon Parsons must have gone close to destroying it completely during a free- wheeling partnership of 152 in only 38 overs for the seventh wicket. Parsons' 70 with 10 fours and two sixes from 120 balls was his highest score for Leicestershire; Nixon's 188- ball innings, with 17 fours, was the fourth century of his career, the product of some nimble footwork, good stroke selection and many crashing blows off the front foot.

There are those, and not only around Grace Road, who think Nixon is a strong candidate for the England A tour to India this winter. Certainly, he is one of those cricketers who seem to get better every time you see him. He has kept wicket superbly here, on a pitch not exactly suited for the job, and his busy left- handedness is a tremendous asset down the order.

All this left John Stephenson, Essex's acting captain, with a thankless task and not too many options, especially when one of his bowlers, Darren Cousins, lost his rhythm and had to be removed from the attack for lengthy spells. Mike Kasprowicz ran in willingly all day and richly deserved his five wickets. However, until Stephenson himself joined the attack there was not much help at the other end.

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