Steady Rackemann earns his stripes

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The Independent Online
Worcs 204; Surrey 34-2

There are a half-dozen seam bowlers in this match who are fast approaching 40, and for most of the day the Dad's Army from The Oval were in charge under the approving eye of Captain Stewart at gulley.

He would have recommended promotion, at least to Lance Corporal, for Carl Rackemann after the Queenslander, fresh from his Sheffield Shield triumph, removed the Worcestershire openers. Rackemann is no longer the lithe, fair young fast bowler of memory, more of a Vincent van der Bijl stature these days.

But, as with the great South African, age has brought expertise along with thickening sinew and Rackemann could be county cricket's most imposing figure, until Jonah Lomu signs for Wigan and Lancashire.

Tim Curtis, with three Championship defeats behind him, had to wonder about the pitch, before electing to bat. Rackemann made the ball lift: there was some evidence of seaming although the pitch is so far over on the square that deep midwicket is virtually fielding in the cathedral precinct, and only the sponsors and the umpires really know what is happening.

Phil Weston was unlucky, playing on. Graeme Hick appeared to have played himself in when he offered cover catching practice; Curtis edged on before the indefatigable Joey Benjamin removed Tom Moody - by a dazzling gulley catch - and David Leatherdale with successive balls. When Gavin Haynes, who had twice pulled Rackemann for six over the short boundary, was taken at slip the scoreboard was familiar: 143 for 6.

Rain always threatened - 13 overs were lost - and while Steve Rhodes and Stuart Lampitt raised 51 in 28 overs the good crowd fell into almost total silence; they might have been watching chess.

Yet Worcestershire did manage their first batting point of the summer before Benjamin twitched that vulnerable hamstring, leaving Rackemann to finish the over and claim the ninth wicket, second ball. Two overs later he ended the innings, again surprising the batsman with his extra bounce to finish with the excellent figures on his debut of 18.5-5-56-4 - worth a sergeant's stripes, surely.

Surrey were left with 18 overs under bright sun and black cloud against the attack that obliterated Yorkshire on Wednesday. Alas Worcestershire one-day and Worcestershire four-days are two entirely different animals and Stewart's fall, driving, was a shock.