MCC 425 Sussex 265-3: Goodwin sets fresh mood

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The Independent Online

For those who prefer cricket as a peaceful background for a siesta or to be lulled into a trance like state by the consistent yet soothing rhythms of a day's play, the summer has just started with Sussex, the champion county playing against an MCC side at Lord's.

England's Test opening bowlers, Stephen Harmison and Matthew Hoggard, probed under the afternoon sun, Murray Goodwin reminded all of his talent with crisply struck extra-cover drives, his century emulating the efforts of MCC captain Alastair Cook on Friday and the feeling grew that the county circuit could act as a perfect antidote to the distressing affairs currently tarnishing the great game in the Caribbean at the moment.

The game in England has been well served recently by Sussex as their cricket is thoughtful, aggressive and good to watch. Sadly Mushtaq Ahmed did not play this match but if Sussex are to retain the trophy there will be much work for him to do before the end of September.

He must still be keen as he trained on the Nursery Ground sprinting between two cones, the cheerful demeanour still evident although the beard is greyer. Time is catching up on Mushtaq much as it is with another leg-spinner of slightly greater repute, Shane Warne and this pair are the story of the season.

Anyone with a love of the game should get along to watch these two magicians live. The opportunity may not come again but their impact is demonstrated by the presence of 19-year-old Adil Rashid in this match.

The Yorkshire twirler can spin the ball and had the mental strength to ignore the bad deliveries - not easy to do when they bounce back to you from the middle of the stands - but what he needs most is plenty of bowling. A chat with either Warne or Mushtaq would also be useful .

These two may even be leading their respective counties to a battle for the title. Hampshire have challenged in recent seasons but have always been one quality player light which manifests in them being one win short at the end of the season and much depends on whether Warne can retain his eagerness for provincial shows without the thrill of Broadway.

What is evident is that the county game should not be dismissed so peremptorily as has become fashionable. Paul Nixon and Ravi Bopara, a 36-year-old journeyman and 22-year-old thruster have galvanised an international team and become two of the more important players which suggests the belief that county cricket is tame is not only wrong but insulting.

The talent is out there from Chester-le Street to Hove and a hard-fought season of cricket, played with respect for each other and the game is quite necessary. If the Championship can can deliver that then 2007 will have been a notable season with all counties champions, not just those visiting Buckingham Palace for coming top of a table.

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