As the new season welcomes back the old Benson & Hedges Cup, the game is under a far greater cloud than those which hung over most of the country yesterday. In the wake of the Hansie Cronje affair, will onlookers trust that any game, especially a limited-overs, rain- affected thrash, is not fixed?
One-day cricket will always produce curious results - Cronje inspired Ireland to a shock victory over Middlesex in the B&H Cup three years ago. As Leicestershire were bundled out for 86 at Derby yesterday, they may have suffered flashbacks to the last final in this competition, in 1998, when they made the lowest total in all 27 finals, 76, and lost to Essex by the highest margin, 192 runs.
Vince Wells must have rued losing the toss on a seamer's paradise with rain around. Then he opened against Derbyshire's front-line recruit, the veteran seamer Tim Munton, and he and Dominic Cork took two wickets apiece to leave the visitors on 18 for 4. Even without Matt Brimson's help, the middle-order was exposed.
The winter transfer merry-go-round had hit Derbyshire hard with 12 players taking their leave, but Leicestershire also suffered heavily. Yet while wicketkeeper Paul Nixon went to Kent, Trevor Ward had come the other way. He rallied with 34, but was the only one to reach double figures as the innings folded in 37 overs. The all-seam attack shared the spoils.
Michael Slater had provided the rare occurrence of an Australian being sacked by a county for scoring too few runs, and his replacement, fellow countryman Michael DiVenuto, kept up the tradition as the hosts were in turn reduced to 22 for 3 before rain intervened and the match was abandoned.
Yorkshire warmed up for a Roses clash today by inserting Durham at Chester-le-Street in a match reduced to 40 overs a side. Durham's much-vaunted import, Simon Katich, who has a large void to fill after the retirement of David Boon, fell to Chris Silverwood early on. But Boon's replacement as captain, Nick Speak, compiled 72 and put on 102 with Jon Lewis, who was unbeaten on 55 when the innings closed on 178 for 4. In reply, Yorkshire had reached 122 for 2 after 30 overs with Craig White, who opened, on 32 not out and Australia's Darren Lehmann unbeaten on 40.
Gloucestershire, who beat Yorkshire in last season's experimental Benson & Hedges Super Cup, took on Glamorgan in Cardiff in a match reduced to 25 overs. The hosts inserted them and while the tyro Simon Jones, son of former England paceman Jeff, was smacked to all parts, conceding 47 in five overs, veteran Steve Watkin picked up 3 for 7 in his spell.
Captain Mark Alleyne, who led Gloucestershire to a one-day double in 1999 with the Nat-West Trophy, steadied the ship with an unbeaten half-century as his side ran up 148 for 6. Glamorgan had made 71 for 3 in 16 overs with their new Australian, Matthew Elliott, one of Alleyne's two victims for 29.
Only 14 overs were possible at Edgbaston and pretty disconcerting they were, too. Somerset, having been put in, lost two wickets to the moving new ball with Jamie Cox, their captain, the victim of some late movement by Ed Giddins.
Then Piran Holloway essayed something which might have been construed as over-ambitious on a Taunton belter in July and his middle stump was removed by Mohammed Sheikh's seventh ball. This was a heartening cartwheel for Sheikh, who had not played since last July after injuring his shoulder in a fielding collision.
Marcus Trescothick went on the attack, which was probably the most effective policy in the circumstances. He struck four fours and a straight six into the pavilion - a jolly reminder of delights to come - in his unbeaten 30 from 47 balls. It was all a prelude to the rain closing in and as Allan Donald was removing his sweater when they walked off - it took nearly five hours to abandon proceedings - Somerset might not have been desperately unhappy.Reuse content