Extra Cover; A Week In Cricket

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Unsung hero makes most of rare chance

MAN IN THE MIDDLE

Tim Walton (Northamptonshire)

Whatever happens when Northamptonshire engage Lancashire in the Benson and Hedges Cup at Lord's on 13 July, they will be obliged to reflect that but for the deeds of one Tim Walton they would not have been there at all.

Tim Who? is the obvious question, given that the 23-year-old Leeds-born member of the County ground staff seems rarely to be let out other than on Sundays.

However, those with an interest in knock-out semi-finals in general and Northamptonshire in particular will be aware that Walton's latest, rare, chance to make an impression was highly significant, earning him more credit than anyone for denying the holders, Warwickshire, the opportunity to retain their trophy.

Not only did he rescue the Northamptonshire innings from impending doom at 88 for 6 with a powerful unbeaten 70, he then pulled the rug from under Warwickshire's apparently comfortable pursuit of a modest 221 to win with two excellent run-outs.

Each was the result of a fast and deadly throw, accounting for Trevor Penney and then Paul Smith, the first an astonishing direct hit from deep mid-wicket.

It was not the first time Walton - who, it should be said, does not cut the most athletic of figures - had demonstrated such brilliance in the field in this year's B&H.

Although he neither batted nor bowled in an earlier zonal game against Yorkshire, his only other appearance in the competion this season, his accurate arm proved a batsman's downfall on two occasions then, also.

Four years ago, Walton passed up the chance of a place in the Yorkshire academy in order to launch his career in Northampton. Not that being a hero for a day may count for much in the longer term. So infrequently is he called up that he fears he might not get a new contract, let alone go to Lord's.

"It has been frustrating, being given a chance only if someone is injured," he said.

"I'm in the last season of my contract and it is up to me either to prove my worth to the club or else put myself in the showcase."

A video of last week's heroics, circulated to all counties, might not be the worst move he could make.

Golden arm (Bowling performance of the week)

Darren Gough (Yorkshire)

The England bowler had quite a week, ending with a splendid 121 against Warwickshire - his maiden century - an unexpected tale by which he could justly be honoured as this week's "hit man". That apart, however, he has showed encouraging signs of a return to form in his primary function, taking five Surrey wickets on Monday and four against Warwickshire on Thursday.

Hit man (Batting performance of the week)

Warren Hegg (Lancashire)

One of these days, Lancashire's consistently impressive backstop will gain the recognition he deserves as a wicketkeeper-batsman. Joint holder of the world record for catches in a match - 11 - he has served his county brilliantly in front of the stumps on many occasions, the latest his match- winning 62-ball 81 against Yorkshire in the Benson and Hedges Cup semi- final.

Team of the week

Martyn Moxon Yorkshire

*Tom Moody ...............Worcestershiree

Trevor Penney Warwickshire

Graham Thorpe Surrey

Tim Walton Northamptonshire

Danny Law Sussex

Warren Hegg Lancashire

Darren Gough Yorkshire

Matt Vandrau Derbyshire

Paul Taylor Northamptonshire

Courtney Walsh Gloucestershire

Quote of the week

`I was running and it felt like treading water. But I knew I would have to go, even if it hit me on the head.' Peter Martin after winning the B&H semi-final off the last ball

Rain check

Hours lost to rain during the County Championship

1 Somerset 34.4

2 Northamptonshire 31.4

3 Lancashire 28.4

4 Derbyshire 28

5 Gloucestershire 28

6 Durham 27.1

7 Sussex 24.5

8 Kent 22.5

9 Middlesex 21.6

10 Essex 20.5

11 Leicestershire 19.5

12 Warwickshire 19.2

13 Worcestershire 18.6

14 Glamorgan 17.3

15 Surrey 16.9

16 Hampshire 16.7

17 Nottinghamshire 16.6

18 Yorkshire 13.9

Butter fingers

David Byas (Yorkshire)

For a captain who leads, Byas's misfortune at dropping Neil Fairbrother in the Benson and Hedges Cup "roses" match was doubly painful. The Lancastrian one-day specialist had made 10 when he offered Byas a chance in the slips. Three times Yorkshire's skipper had the ball in his hands - and three times it slipped out. Fairbrother went on to make a vital 49 more runs.

Tales of the unexpected

Alan Mullally (Leicestershire)

Given that his mates in the Grace Road dressing room could barely believe 14 against his name on his Test debut at Edgbaston, gaping mouths must have been the order on The Oval balcony on Saturday, when the Anglo-Australian left-arm pace bowler plundered 68 - doubling his career best - off a Surrey attack including Chris Lewis, whom he clubbed over square-leg for six.

Durham's perfect home for visionaries

AROUND THE GROUNDS

No 6: THE RIVERSIDE GROUND

Whatever you say about Durham's contribution to first-class cricket, it cannot be denied that the still-struggling new boys have made one indelible imprint on the game.

Some time early in the next century, if all goes according to schedule, the Test-match calendar in England will acquire its first new venue for more than 100 years, thanks to Durham's supreme efforts in developing the splendid Riverside Ground at Chester-le-Street.

Constructing the stadium - built from scratch on a 100-acre farmland site - was central to Durham's case for being granted entry to the County Championship in 1992. And even though there is some way to go before the 20,000-seat complex becomes a concrete reality, the one grandstand already in place is an impressive structure in its own right.

Built at a cost of pounds 2.8m, it will in time be the principal among a quartet of grandstands, forming a horseshoe shape around the playing area. It offers not only a fine vantage point but unrivalled facilities, particularly in the dressing-room area.

Directly opposite is the 14th-century Lumley Castle, a backdrop that perhaps one day will be as familiar to television viewers as the Father Time weather vane at Lord's or the cathedral at Worcester.

Casual visitors naturally pen eulogies to the place, allowing their imaginations to conjure pictures of England meeting the West Indies there. And on days when an inhospitable chill is blowing in off the Wear, an imagination is a necessary accessory.

At times, the pitch has come in for criticism, usually from batsmen surprised by a grubber. But for such an immature square it performs quite well. Certainly Simon Brown, Durham's leading wicket-taker, has no complaints.

It's in the rules...

Law 33: Handled the ball. So rare that cricket bores dine out for years on a single sighting, hence the buzz among spectators at Derby last Friday after Karl Krikken, the wicketkeeper, become the first player in Derbyshire's history to be so dismissed, having used his hand to deflect the ball after chopping a delivery from Javagal Srinath in the direction of his stumps.

Krikken was only the 43rd batsman to be dismissed "handled the ball" in first-class cricket,although it is only three years since Graham Gooch was given out the same way against Australia at Old Trafford.

The rule can apply in almost any circumstances where contact with the hand is not accidental, even if the batsman, having played the ball a short distance, is merely being helpful by tossing it back to the bowler.

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