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A Week In Cricket
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Son of Kent starts to make his own mark

MAN IN THE MIDDLE

Mark Ealham (Kent)

Having a famous father may bring opportunities less readily available to others, but it is not necessarily a good thing, as most sportsmen so blessed will confirm. Kent's Mark Ealham, however, appears to have overcome the handicap.

Mark's dad, Alan, who captained Kent during their successful period of the late 1970s, left an impression so enduring that, in the formative part of his career, Mark would frequently see himself referred to as "Alan" in print.

This occurs less frequently now, largely because Mark has established a name for himself in his own right, his all-round talents making him an indispensible member of the Kent side which won the AXA Equity and Law Sunday title and reached the Benson and Hedges final last year.

A sharp fielder in his father's mould, he finds himself regarded so far as a one-day specialist, a categorisation with which his supporters would take issue, believing his claims on a Test place to be at least equal to those of Ronnie Irani, especially after his international debut, when he made a forceful 40 in the opening Texaco Trophy match.

Perhaps if Kent can maintain a challenge in the Championship this season, opinions will change. There can be no quibbling after Kent's demolition of the champions Warwickshire in the latest round, a victory that enables them to topple Yorkshire at the head of the table.

Ealham, who bowls a brisk medium pace, made it possible with a splendid performance in the first innings, when his career-best 8 for 36 owed something to a helpful pitch but rather more to his outswinger, challenging the notion that he is not a bowler liable to run through a side.

As a batsman, too, he is beginning to reap the rewards of a sound technique and attacking style. He proudly holds the record for the fastest century in Sunday League history, having raced to three figures in a mere 44 balls against Derbyshire at Maidstone last summer - but was equally pleased to have proved his capabilities in quite different circumstances with his painstaking maiden first-class hundred against Nottinghamshire last season - part of a county record sixth-wicket stand of 315 with Aravinda de Silva.

Occasional home tortured by water

AROUND THE GROUNDS

No 7: Ynysangharad Park, Pontypridd

One of the charms of watching cricket in Wales is the variety of settings in which Glamorgan play during the course of a season, which owes a good deal to the unceasing hard work put in by the clubs who stage their matches, none of whom likes to be outdone in providing an efficiently run fixture and generous hospitality.

This is especially true of Pontypridd CC, who have been asked to play host to the touring Pakistanis next Saturday in the first match of the second of the summer's Tetley Challenge series, a boost to local prestige made possible by sponsorship from Taff-Ely Borough Council.

More than usually, Pontypridd officials will be hoping that the waters of the Taff, which runs alongside the parkland ground, glimmer in sunshine throughout the three days, with cricket planned for Sunday also.

The annual fixture in the Mid-Glamorgan town has suffered more than seems fair from bad weather, which has made the council less willing than it might have otherwise been to sanction a bid by the club to stage more games. Not that it is a problem confined to recent meteorological trends. Even in 1947, the Glamorgan Cricket Review noted that "rain interferes with the majority of matches played at Ynysangharad Park", which it described as the county's "un- luckiest ground".

The ground, which owed its existence originally to the philanthropy of a local ironworks, has been developed in recent years with the building of a modern two-storey pavilion, opened in time for the visit of South Africa in 1994, a match which revived a fixture previously staged in 1929, and which also brought three-day cricket back to Pontypridd for the first time in several years. The contest, incidentally, was bathed in sunshine throughout.

It's in the rules...

Law 3 (8): Fitness of ground, weather and light. The rules about rain, bad light and waterlogged pitches are often seen as part of a conspiracy to deny long-suffering crowds the pleasure of watching the game at every opportunity, offering a whole raft of reasons why the players should not be playing.

Inevitably someone will view the players' absence as totally unreasonable and hold pernickety umpires to blame. In fact, responsibility rests ultimately with the players.

The batsmen are not obliged to go off even if the officials consider the light to be poor, while the umpires can suspend a game through bad weather only if one of the captains says he wants to stop. Technically, play could continue through a blizzard if both captains were happy to do so.

Golden arm (Bowling performance of the week)

Kevin Evans (Notts)

Evans needed to atone after dropping the Gloucestershire centurion Andrew Symonds on 20 on Saturday. He damaged his hand for good measure, needing stitches. Patched up, however, Evans took five wickets in 33 balls as Gloucestershire collapsed from 229-4 to 267 all out and Notts recorded their first Championship win in 13 attempts.

Team of the week

1 Vince Wells Leicestershire

2 Mark Butcher ...............Surrey

3 Chris Adams Derbyshire

4 *James Whitaker Leicestershire

5 Robin Smith Hampshire

6 Shane Lee Somerset

7 Mark Ealham Kent

8 Jack Russell Gloucestershire

9 Andrew Harris Derbyshire

10 Kevin Evans Nottinghamshire

11 Andrew Caddick Somerset

Quote of the week

'Even Sir Donald Bradman and Sir Leonard Hutton weren't given anything like that. I couldn't hold the tears back. It was wonderful' Dickie Bird on his Lord's welcome.

Butter fingers

Richard Stemp (Yorkshire)

The left-arm spinner had plenty of competition among his side's error- prone fielders at Bradford, where Leicestershire had help in stacking up 681 for 7 declared. But no dropped catch was quite so costly as the one Stemp perpetrated at short extra cover on Thursday when Vince Wells, on his way to 200, had reached only 24.

Hit man (Batting performance of the week)

Chris Adams (Derbyshire)

Blossoming under the guidance of Dean Jones and the coach Les Stillman, the 26-year-old, already with a career-best 239 this month, became only the 10th player in his county's history to record two centuries in a match when his unbeaten 136 helped set up what should be a third consecutive Championship win for Derbyshire against Middlesex.

Rain check

Hours lost to rain during the County Championship

1 Somerset 36.7

2 Northamptonshire 34.8

3 Sussex 31.4

4 Lancashire 28.4

5 Gloucestershire 28.2

6 Derbyshire 28

7 Durham 27.2

8 Glamorgan 24.2

9 Kent 22.5

10 Middlesex 21.6

11 Worcestershire 20.9

12 Essex 20.5

13 Leicestershire 19.5

14 Warwickshire 19.2

15 Hampshire 19.1

16 Surrey 17

17 Nottinghamshire 16.7

18 Yorkshire 13.9

Tales of the unexpected

David Ligertwood (Durham)

Durham's wicketkeeper, a Surrey reject, seems to reserve his best efforts with the bat for his former county. Last season, he did not better the 40 he made at the Oval as his personal highest score in first-class cricket but has done so twice in the match at Stockton, following his first-innings maiden half-century with 44 on Saturday.

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