Cricket: Whitaker grafts a vital century

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The Independent Online
Yorkshire. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .331

Leicestershire . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .297-2

AN ENGAGINGLY old-fashioned day's cricket, with batsmen initially obliged to work hard for their runs against tight bowling and with a praiseworthy piece of old-fashioned honesty as its focal point, enabled Leicestershire to regain much of the ground lost by their bowlers here yesterday.

James Whitaker's is not the first name that springs to mind when grafting displays of batting are called for and this has been a lean, frustrating season for him. But this time heart, mind and body were of one accord and his disciplined first hundred of the summer, made from 217 balls, cemented Leicestershire together.

He produced the qualities demanded by a slow and low pitch - patience, footwork and the straightest of bats - on which Leicestershire had been disappointed by some of their own bowling. Some 200 of Yorkshire's total of 331 came from loose balls hit for four.

The need to limit what might be required in the fourth innings against the turning ball was another factor, but this would not be uppermost in Leicestershire's thoughts when Phil Simmons was caught behind off Peter Hartley's out-swinger and Nigel Briers was palpably lbw to Jeremy Batty.

Whitaker and Tim Boon pulled things round, though not without a few uneasy moments outside their off stumps, against Hartley, especially, and Darren Gough. Then Boon ducked into a ball from Hartley, which bounced less than expected, and had to retire with a damaged left cheekbone.

By now Whitaker, with only four Championship half-centuries behind him, had come to understand the pitch. But, at 35, he nicked another good one from Hartley, turned to see the ball finish in Richard Blakey's gloves, tucked his bat under his arm and set off for the pavilion.

A similar episode at Bradford last month (when the umpires could not confirm a catch), led to the incident for which Yorkshire's left-arm spinner, Richard Stemp, was fined and reprimanded for abusive language. This time, Blakey quickly indicated the ball had not carried and Whitaker was recalled by the wicketkeeper.

For their trouble, Yorkshire then had to watch Whitaker complete an otherwise chanceless fourth century off their attack. Vince Wells, batting with growing maturity, joined him in taking a heavy toll of spinners who, overall, tended to bowl too short the longer an increasingly difficult day went on.

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