Cricket: Smith on loose with cut and cart

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The Independent Online
Somerset 534

Durham 219 and 98-3

APRIL and September are the cruellest months for a struggling county. It is then, in four-day cricket, that limitations are exposed and there is no hiding behind declarations and run chases.

Durham were dismissed yesterday for 219 and, forced to follow on 315 runs behind Somerset, 29 for 3 at one stage. Their batting was not distinguished, except for an immensely robust century from their ex-Glamorgan Geordie, Ian Smith, but the real weakness lay in their bowling for allowing Somerset to score 534 in the first place.

Chris Tavare became the third century-maker in Somerset's innings when he progressed in the morning to the 46th of his first- class career, and passed 1,000 runs for the 16th consecutive season - though the slip catch to his left to dismiss Phil Bainbridge was finer still. Of Durham's pace bowlers, only Simon Hughes was tidy, and nowadays he is quicker of wit than pace.

Both counties have been so excited by a damp green strip - across which the first leaves of autumn have scudded as a distraction - that their quick bowlers have under-pitched in order to savour the rare sight of pace and bounce. Only the sage Neil Mallender consistently pitched up - he knocked out Ian Botham's off-stump with a yorker - although Andy Caddick has had his fuller-length moments and is ending the season as he began it, mighty promisingly.

Promoted to appear in the first over, Smith gave this short- pitched bowling a fearful clatter with cut and cart - there was no over-emphasis on footwork - and reached the fourth century of his career out of only 160. He has Botham's physique, and Botham's strength of stroke. He hit to the boundary 19 of the 109 balls he faced, and most would still have been fours even if Somerset's field had not been so close set.

Smith could not repeat his performance in the follow-on and mis- hooked, as did Parker. Wayne Larkins needed a runner when he pulled a thigh muscle; Chris Scott has a right finger broken by one of many lifting balls. And Ian Botham will miss the last game, too, with his shoulder injury. Now is the time for the Geordie spirit to make its unique addition to English cricket.