Marshall can turn back the years at New Road

Derek Hodgson on tomorrow's Benson and Hedges Cup zonal matches
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Malcolm Marshall's first appearance for Scotland, in tomorrow's Benson and Hedges zonal match at Worcester, recalls the time when Brian Close was briefly Scotland's captain and coach.

An eager reporter from Edinburgh, anxious to ascertain the great man's views on a far from happy performance, questioned him. Close gave his views on the batting ("didn't do as they were told"), the bowling ("couldn't bowl bloody 'oop downhill") and the fielding ("couldn't catch a cold"). The reporter, convinced that Close would at least try to protect his job with some words of reassurance, if not praise, continued: "So how would you describe the team performance overall?"

The iron man of Yorkshire and Somerset gaped, struggled to restrain his normal flow of colourful invective before finally bursting out: "You can call them a bunch of tartan twits".

No Worcestershire batsman is likely to address tomorrow's Scots as tartan twits if Marshall is polishing the ball at the other end. New Road usually gives some help to seam so that Marshall versus Graeme Hick and Tom Moody is a starring attraction for St George's Day and should, if the temperature rises a little, bring a good opening day crowd.

Scotland are a sterner proposition these days and continue their Yorkshire links, as befits the country that claims to have taught Wilfred Rhodes how to bowl, with Jim Love as the current coach and with the emergence of a Scottish-born fast bowler Gavin Hamilton (who Love wanted to borrow) at Headingley. The Scots are reputed to hold the Tykes in higher regard than most Sassenachs believing, according to a Hawick man, that a Yorkie could just about pass for a second-class Scot.

Warwickshire, the Cup holders and triple champions, having had a pasting from England A, face another at Trent Bridge where resurgent Nottinghamshire, with both Chris Cairns and Chris Lewis fit again, will be well-backed to reach Lord's. We all knew that the champions would miss the convalescent Tim Munton and, on the evidence of the last four days, even the return of Allan Donald cannot fill the gap.

Hugh Morris may not be fit to lead Glamorgan in their tricky opener at Chelmsford where the new Essex, under Paul Prichard, will hope to impress a restive support. Leicestershire's rising wicketkeeper-batsman, Paul Nixon, who broke a finger while batting for England A, will have to be replaced at Durham where Phil Whitticase, who lost his place through injury to Nixon three years ago, picks up the gloves again.

Another wicketkeeper, Sussex's Peter Moores, is likely to miss only his third first-team match in six years, against Somerset at Taunton, after damaging a shoulder in a midweek friendly.

Surrey have announced the signing of the Queensland fast bowler Carl Rackemann as a replacement for their injured overseas professional, Waqar Younis, but he will not arrive in time for this competition; can the Irish overturn The Oval? Middlesex and Hampshire, who may be fielding their new fast bowlers Dion Nash and Heath Streak, ought to draw an interested crowd to Lord's.

Lancashire and Gloucestershire face unfamiliar opponents respectively in Minor Counties and Combined Universities but readers need to be reminded that this year the competition has reverted to a zonal basis, the first and second in each group going through to the quarter-finals and knock- out stages. The second round of matches, when Kent and Yorkshire, who have Darren Gough fit again, enter the fray, comes on Tuesday.

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