Harden reigns as the rules change

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The Independent Online
Yorkshire 413 and 32-2

Somerset 351-5 dec

SOME games of cricket meander so aimlessly that a lengthy rain disruption is almost welcome, forcing the captains to enter into mathematical discussions in search of a positive conclusion, however artificial, so at least kicking some life into the contest.

This was not such a game, but the rains came anyway. For two cheerful days it had maintained an elegant poise, watched by crowds which would have made far larger arenas seem well attended.

In the early skirmishes batsmen got in, made their contributions and mysteriously got out again. Spinners - six in all - schemed and twirled, with the Somerset trio bowling 107 overs between them. The marathon contribution was a classy display of leg-spin by Mushtaq Ahmed, who took five wickets, while the home-grown off-spinner Harvey Trump caused the Yorkshire middle- order to stumble with a timely two wickets, and the Bradford-born Jeremy Batty enjoyed an unexpected game against his old club when Graham Rose withdrew, nursing a back injury.

Somerset's spirited reply to Yorkshire's substantial first innings included a restorative 61 from Mark Lathwell, and the reliable and underrated Richard Harden was on 65 overnight. But at dawn the rain drizzled in from the west, upsetting the game's intriguing balance.

It was 3.30pm before Harden and Simon Eccleston could resume on a low, slow wicket against the pace and spin pairing of Mark Robinson and left- armer Richard Stemp. But 40 minutes later, at the prescribed time, the players went off for tea.

By this time Eccleston was out, back on his stumps to a Robinson creeper, but Harden cracked on to his third Championship 100 of a blossoming season. His captain, Andy Hayhurst, had been chatting to his opposite number, David Byas, during the soggy morning, perhaps about a possible deal. The resulting message was clearly "350, as quick as you like", because, when Harden pushed Somerset past this milestone to gain maximum batting points, the declaration arrived with 11 overs left to bowl.

The Somerset spinners Mushtaq and Batty were soon operating, and sketched out another chapter when they got rid of both Yorkshire openers in the last two overs of the day, Batty taking his first wicket against his old employer. In spite of the weather, the game is still alive.

l Only the hardiest souls were still at the County Ground, Hove, when play began between Sussex and Gloucestershire at five to six last night. Just 10 people were left in the public seats as the visitors reduced their first innings deficit of 280 runs by 20 in the 12 overs possible. Bowlers and fielders kept warm with some lusty appealing but Tony Wright and Dean Hodgson survived unscathed.

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