Hildreth wounds Essex with quickfire half-century

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The Independent Online

There are some cricketers who are put off their stroke by the smallest inconvenience and others who simply get on with the job. James Hildreth clearly falls into the latter category.

The Somerset batsman, preparing for play with a touch rugby game on the outfield, fell foul of this popular but inherently hazardous warm-up routine when his knee collided with team-mate Charl Willoughby's foot in a manner that required a trip to hospital and a number of stitches.

But Hildreth returned, patched up, to bat at No 5, hooked his first ball for four and plundered the Essex bowling to the tune of 73 runs, including 12 boundaries, before he was bowled by David Masters. With Nick Compton and Zander de Bruyn attacking with similar success, Somerset's innings had the middle-order substance that has been lacking so far, to which Joss Buttler, understudying for Craig Kieswetter as wicketkeeper, also made a worthwhile contribution in only his second first-class match.

Openers Arul Suppiah and Marcus Trescothick had been early casualties after Trescothick elected to bat first on a typical Taunton pitch but Essex will have to score heavily themselves to stay in the match.

Makhaya Ntini made life difficult for Lancashire in their quest to maintain their fine start with a third straight win. The South African flew into Manchester only on Monday to begin his five-week stint as Kent's overseas player but despite a lack of rest was enthused at the sight of a green pitch and, with the ball swinging, took a wicket with the last ball of his third over, bowling Tom Smith.

Amjad Khan knocked back Stephen Moore's off stump in the next over and neither Paul Horton, bowled by Darren Stevens, nor Mark Chilton, who edged a lifting ball to second slip to become Ntini's second victim, could dent Kent's dominance of the opening session.

Lancashire were rescued, however, by Ntini's compatriot, Ashwell Prince, who took advantage of a let-off on 18, when he was dropped off Khan, to score his second century for the county, his partnership with Steven Croft adding 144 for the fifth wicket. But three wickets for Stevens late in the day checked Lancashire's recovery.

Michael Carberry and Sean Ervine gave some substance to Hampshire's first innings at Edgbaston, where Darren Maddy, in his first match after a year wrecked by injuries, marked his return with the wicket of Neil McKenzie.