Cricket: Third Test - Such digs in for history

`Rabbit' stands his ground to enter special company for ducks
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The Independent Online
AS HE walked towards the pavilion, peering through the grille of his batting helmet, a wry smile played upon his face. The spectators were rising to their feet, applauding and Peter Such - caught Bell, bowled Vettori, 0 - could not suppress a chuckle. "I felt a bit embarrassed but everyone was standing up so I felt I had to," he said. Imagine how they would react if he scored a century.

But Peter Such is not a century man, although in a way he now is, given that yesterday's feat of non-scoring is unlikely to be matched before this hundred years is out. He is a genuine rabbit, but a rabbit in special company: his painstaking nought was the longest Test duck ever in England, the second longest in the history of Tests, surpassed only by Geoff Allott of New Zealand, in March of this year.

The Old Trafford crowd probably did not know this after Such's 51st ball had popped off bat and pad into the hands of Matthew Bell at forward short leg but they applauded all the same. Dismissed after 72 minutes, Such had some way to go to challenge Allott - 77 balls, 101 minutes against South Africa in Auckland - but, as England clawed their way desperately towards some semblance of respectability, it had been a performance worthy at least of congratulations. On the ground where, on his Test debut in 1993, he had taken 6 for 67 in his other role, it was quite a moment.

He had, though, done what so few English batsmen seem capable of. He had dug in, occupied the crease, jealously guarded his wicket and even those spectators who had jeered other, proper, batsmen for their snail's pace progress could appreciate his purpose. It was down to Mark Ramprakash to score runs. Such merely had to keep his end up, which is what tail- enders are supposed to do, and the two worked things out so well between them that the rabbit found himself caught in the headlights, so to speak - required to face the first ball of a new over - only once during his stay.

It did look an ordeal at times, particularly while Chris Cairns and Dion Nash were keeping him hopping about. He is not, actually, a complete duffer with the willow; indeed, twice for Essex he has made half-centuries: 54 against Worcestershire at Chelmsford in 1993, the same against Nottinghamshire, his first county, on the same ground three years later.

In 1997, when Essex met Glamorgan in a NatWest semi-final made infamous by Robert Croft and Mark Ilott, he hit the winning boundary. It is just that, faced with a hard ball propelled towards him at 90 miles per hour, he cannot honestly claim to have the heart of a lion.

He is not alone in that. Phil Tufnell, who once took 81 minutes to make two not out in another England cause, invariably plays the quicks only after taking one long backwards stride towards square leg. Such does at least try to stay vaguely in line, if a little twitchily. Then again, he has been known to stuff so much padding down his trousers and under his shirt that he sometimes strides to the middle resembling the Michelin Man in cricket whites.

His first-class debut set the tone. Called up by Nottinghamshire in 1982 as an 18-year-old still waiting for his A-level results, he faced Middlesex at Lord's, returned 0 for 70 from 23 overs and bagged a pair. Middlesex, on their way to the title, won by an innings.

But things have come on since then. Never, in eight seasons, at Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire, did he manage to average much above two. But after persuading Essex to take him on in 1990 he made an unprecedented effort. This season - his highest score an unbeaten 22 - he is up to the dizzy heights of 12.

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