McGrath class skittles Essex

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The Independent Online

Worcestershire 240 & 124-7Essex 131

Worcestershire 240 & 124-7Essex 131

Ninteen wickets fell at Chelmsford yesterday, but the flying squad of pitch inspectors are only interested in first-day outrages. On the second day, blame the class of Glenn McGrath and third-rate batting by a procession of professionals on both sides.

The pitch remained docile, but McGrath made it buck like a trampoline. He is as tall as a flagpole, yards quicker than anyone else and has a stare that could curdle milk. Too many county-class batsmen, their minds whirring while they wait their turn, are half out before they get in. Thus Essex, in a low-scoring contest, conceded an advantage of 109 on first innings. Their bowlers then fought back with determination, but which ever way the game moves today yet another three-day finish is inevitable.

Essex are hampered by the absence of Darren Robinson, who broke a thumb fielding on Wednesday, and Mark Ilott limped off the field yesterday afternoon. Ilott had brushed aside the visitors' tail first thing, and then contributed a lively 25 as the Essex ship went down in mid afternoon.

Earlier in the Essex innings Paul Prichard played a rugged knock before being dismissed in curious fashion. He played forward to the left-arm spinner Matthew Rawnsley, and Steve Rhodes attempted a stumping. Prichard went walkabout and Rhodes ripped out a stump to ensure the dismissal which, unknown to the batsman, had been in doubt. Further resistance came from Stephen Peters in a two-hour innings before Essex subsided. McGrath took his season's first-class tally to 49 with a five-wicket bag.

The only spite in the fast-drying wicket was to be found in the foot marks, and Peter Such exploited them expertly when Worcestershire built on their lead. His three middle-order wickets came in 26 balls at a cost of six runs, and prevented the visitors from batting their way out of sight. His tally included Vikram Solanki, who scored at a run a ball to give a true measure of the wicket's nastiness. At stumps Worcestershire, with three wickets in hand, had a comfortable lead of 233.

* The Indian Test batsman Rahul Dravid won his personal duel with Hampshire's Australian spinner Shane Warne to get Kent out of trouble at Portsmouth. Dravid batted for almost six hours to make 137, his first Championship century since joining Kent as their overseas player for the season.