Grayson plays his part in title race

COUNTY CHAMPIONSHIP: All-rounder frustrates Glamorgan; Glamorgan 361 Essex 169 and 320-8
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Yorkshire were yesterday playing a larger part in the build-up to the outcome of the County Championship than might have been anticipated. Of course there were the goings-on up at Headingley, but along the banks of the River Taff a lone Yorkshireman stood between Glamorgan and a resounding victory over Essex.

Paul Grayson hails from Ripon, but he discarded the White Rose to join Essex for the 1996 campaign after six unfulfilled seasons with Yorkshire. His northern grit and obduracy was called upon in no uncertain measure at Sophia Gardens yesterday as he resisted the best that Glamorgan could bowl at him.

Even with half a day lost to the weather - bringing their total overs lost in the Championship this season to a figure approaching 2,000 - Glamorgan must have thought they were well down the road to a win. Maximum points and an early finish beckoned when Essex stumbled to 130 for 4, still more than 60 runs away from making their hosts bat again. But then they ran headlong into a hold-up called Grayson.

He managed what Paul Prichard, Nasser Hussain and, later, Ronnie Irani signally failed to do: keep his wicket intact after reaching his half- century. Grayson's graft is probably not enough to prevent defeat, but it restored some pride to an otherwise disappointing and unsatisfactory Essex performance overall and took them into a lead of 128 runs. So far he has been at the crease for almost four hours while frustrating Glamorgan's Championship challenge.

There was a typical Yorkshire pragmatism to Grayson's approach, and he could not be tempted, as was Prichard earlier in the day, to have a swing at the occasional bad ball. A measure of that willpower lies in the fact that only six of the 209 balls Grayson has faced have been dispatched to the boundary. In contrast, when Prichard went to punish a Robert Croft long-hop he was comfortably held by Steve James at deep square leg, two balls after reaching his 50.

Hussain perished just after lunch, trying to work a delivery from Steve Watkin to leg and losing his middle and off stumps. He too had only just eased past his half-century.

For a while Irani carried the fight to the enemy. Unfortunately for him Waqar Younis had returned to the fray, and he delivered a wicked, full- length ball which bowled the all-rounder. Waqar struck again a couple of overs later, with an unplayable yorker thudding into the base of Danny Law's stumps, and it looked as though Glamorgan would have a nominal total to knock off.

Grayson disagreed. He and Barry Hyam put on 62 for the seventh wicket and, even when Mark Ilott was bowled by off-spinner Croft, Ashley Cowan stuck around to the close. It is not all over yet.