Cricket: Simmons tightens the leaders' grip

COUNTY CHAMPIONSHIP: Leicestershire make short work of Durham as nearest rivals for the title all suffer a frustrating day
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Durham 126 Leicestershire 253-5

It may seem uncharitable to describe a first-class county as cannon fodder, yet it is hard to think of a more apt description for Durham at the moment. For much of the day they offered scarcely more than token resistance to Leicestershire, who picked up their fourth bowling point in the sixth over of the afternoon and by the close had added two more for batting.

Leicestershire will have come to Riverside hoping for, if not expecting, 24 points from this game. But some careless batting on an awkward pitch cost them wickets in the evening, which may still mean that they will have to settle for less than four batting points. Weather permitting, they will surely go on to win the match.

At the moment, Durham are rudderless and all the fight seems to have gone out of them. It would be hard to imagine a much more awful piece of cricket than that in the three overs after lunch, when Phil Simmons, who finished with career-best figures of 6 for 14, took four wickets in 12 balls.

He bowled the first over of the afternoon and his first ball to Stuart Hutton, who had batted through the morning for 30, was short and outside the off stump. Without any serious footwork, Hutton waved his bat at it and gave the easiest of catches to second slip.

Simmons' next five balls and the following over by Adrian Pierson were defended successfully and then Simmons started another over to Mike Roseberry. He came forward to the first ball but played no stroke and was leg before. Three balls later Melvyn Betts played forward with his bat away from his body and was caught behind. Two balls after that, Alan Walker departed in similar fashion.

At no more than medium pace, Simmons is accurate and finds movement off the seam but he was never unplayable as these figures would suggest, even allowing for a helpful pitch.

No one has worked harder for or contributed more to Leicestershire's success this year than Simmons. It was appropriate that he should have been such an influence on a day which has strengthened their position at the top of the table. He is the most likeable and whole-hearted of cricketers and has, in all respects, been an exemplary overseas player.

The ignominy of Durham's collapse from 93 for 2 to 126 all out was highlighted by the hectic start they were given by Sherwin Campbell. He hooked Alan Mullally for four and six in the day's first over and made 35 before cutting at David Millns and being caught behind.

When it was Durham's turn to bowl, for a long time nothing much changed. After a watchful start, Leicestershire began to score much as they pleased against some fairly ordinary bowling. The 50 came up in the 13th over and, although Vince Wells was bowled driving at Walker when the score was 62, Darren Maddy and Ben Smith added 147 in 19 overs before careless strokes cost Leicestershire late wickets.

Scoreboard, page 26

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