Football: Crowe bars the way to Somerset

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Somerset 364-8 dec; New Zealand 182 and 247-2. Match drawn

AT ONE stage yesterday, it looked as if the tourists, having followed on, would leave Taunton with taunts ringing in their ears alongside a flea or two from their manager. Instead, Martin Crowe produced a dazzling century.

If the visitors had a game plan, it was not obvious. Resuming on 131 for 1, they eked out 25 runs in the first hour, losing Crowe and Blair Pocock to Graham Rose in the process, the former taking strokelessness to extremes by shouldering arms.

The snoozy then gave way to the woozy, the last seven wickets tumbling in 10 overs as a succession of batsmen drove at Mushtaq Ahmed. Without doing anything out of the ordinary, the leg-spinner took five for 8 in 34 deliveries.

Geoff Howarth, the New Zealand manager, was amply justified in describing this as an embarrassment. Mushtaq might have had cause to express similar sentiments but these are likely to have been outweighed by a sense of self-affirmation. A back injury had compelled him to return from Pakistan's recent tour of New Zealand after the first Test, leaving Shane Warne to hog the limelight in the new world of the wristy men.

Redemption came in the afternoon as the openers, Pocock and Bryan Young, added 95 untroubled runs between lunch and tea, setting the table for Crowe to gorge himself. Entering when Pocock retired hurt with a bad shoulder, he took just 31 balls to reach 50, 48 of them in boundaries, and a further 45 to complete the 65th century of his career, at which point hands were shaken and stumps drawn.

For someone whose footwork has been hampered by a career-threatening knee complaint that restricted him to one Test and five months of post-operative ennui during the winter, Crowe's freedom of movement was as surprising as it was refreshing.

Granted, bowlers like Andy Hayhurst and Mark Lathwell did not provide the sternest of tests, yet that should not detract from the quality of his strokeplay. Or, more importantly, the galvanising effect it may have on his colleagues.