Solanki hits century as Pipe shines on debut

Vikram Solanki and James Pipe led a spirited Worcestershire fightback against Warwickshire at New Road yesterday as the pair helped their side recover from 8 for 3 to close on 231 for 5.

Vikram Solanki and James Pipe led a spirited Worcestershire fightback against Warwickshire at New Road yesterday as the pair helped their side recover from 8 for 3 to close on 231 for 5.

Solanki hit an unbeaten 113 while the 22-year-old Bradford-born Pipe marked his County Championship debut with 54, including a six and 10 fours off 64 deliveries, as the partnership put on 100 runs in 20 overs. As reserve to the wicketkeeper Steve Rhodes, Pipe's first-team opportunities have been restricted, but he has forced his way into the side following impressive performances for the second XI.

The Middlesex captain, Justin Langer, continued his excellent run of form with an unbeaten 76 against Gloucestershire at Bristol. The Australian, who hit centuries in his previous two matches, pulled Middlesex round from 24 for 3 to 151 for 5 at tea, when heavy rain ended play.

The Durham coach, Norman Gifford, knows the club's hopes of retaining a place in the First Division could hinge on the showdown with their fellow strugglers Derbyshire, starting today. Both sides are in the drop zone, but Gifford believes victory at Derby could be the catalyst for a late-season survival charge. He said: "They are just behind us. It is a big game for both of us and we need to win. Victory there would do us the world of good."

Melvyn Betts returns to the 13-man Durham squad after missing more than a fortnight's action due to a minor operation on his knee.

The Derbyshire cricket manager, Colin Wells, is sweating over the fitness of Steve Titchard (ribs) and Steve Stubbings (knee). "Durham blow a bit hot and cold," he said. "They have obviously got a pretty decent seam attack, but their batting will rest on [Nick] Speak and [Simon] Katich."

In another basement encounter, Hampshire travel to face Kent at Canterbury, with their director of cricket, Tim Tremlett, expecting Shane Warne to return from Australia duty early in the morning. "They [Kent] are in a relegation battle and will be fighting as hard as we will be to get ourselves out of that position," said Tremlett.

Lancashire could cut the 20-point gap to the pace-setters, Surrey, with a victory on their trip to Leicestershire.

In the Second Division, Glamorgan meet Sussex at Colwyn Bay. The Glamorgan coach, John Hammond, said: "In the last game with Sussex, just prior to the Benson and Hedges Cup final, they beat us. I think our focus might have been towards that, so hopefully we will learn things from our experience in that game. It is a must-win situation."

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