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The Electronic Telegraph Essex v Indians, Match Report
Doug Ibbotson - 28-30 May 1996

Day 1: Rathore brings brighter mood

First day of three: Essex (1-0) trail Indians (320-8 dec) by 319 runs

If Indian morale has been disturbed by internecine skirm- ishes there was little evidence at Chelmsford, where joyful bat- ting by Vikram Rathore, Sachin Tendulkar and Saurav Ganguly had um- pire Dickie Bird diving into an outfield trapdoor for re- placement balls.

Rathore hit four sixes and Tendulkar five as the tourists farmed a bountiful pitch and an Essex attack which, lacking Mark Ilott and for most of the day his replacement, Stephen An- drew, made little impression until Ronnie Irani (four for 37) broke through just before the declaration.

Meanwhile, the tourists' management were shuttling to and fro between the ground and the team's hotel, where the dissident Navjot Singh Sidhu was contemplating his decision to retire im- mediately from international cricket.

Sidhu, miffed by the tour management's decision to drop him from the Texaco Trophy side, conveyed his feelings by tele- phone to Inder Singh Bindra, president of the Indian Board of Control, intimating that the decision may be recoverable but not his intention to quit the tour.

The implication here was that Sidhu's disenchantment was with the captaincy of Mohammad Azharuddin, though a change of captain in the future would scarcely enhance the reputation now tar- nished by petulance.

The conclusion of the affair was scheduled to take place dur- ing a telephone link-up last night between Sidhu, team manager Sandeep Patil, tour manager Chinappa Nagaraj, and Bindra.

In any event, the tourists confirmed that they would be joined for their next match at Leicester by Salil Ankola, a 28- year- old seam bowler currently playing league cricket for South Northumberland.

Ankola, who has played one Test - against Pakistan in 1989 - has been recruited as reinforcement for what is generally regarded as a substandard seam attack.

Back at the match, all was sweetness and (bad) light as the chirpy tourists practised at close of play. Good knocks by Rathore and Tendulkar

Day 2: Law's 153 imposes authority for Essex

Second day of three: The Indians (320-8 dec & 81-1) lead Essex (269-5 dec) by 132 runs

With the notable exception of Hugh Page, whose undoubted talents failed to survive the journey from South Africa, Essex have signed a succession of superb overseas players. Stuart Law, im- ported from Australia this season, is a prime exam- ple.

A glorious innings of 153 yesterday - his third first- class century of the season - elevated an aggregate at this level to 588 runs for an average of 73.5.

He has also scored a hundred in the Sunday League and the Ben- son and Hedges Cup in which sphere, said the early-season snipers, he was best equipped to play. Law has buried that assessment under a seam of 24-carat runs.

He began prospecting at 11.20am yesterday, at which point Essex had lost openers Darren Robinson and Paul Grayson for four runs. By lunch, Law had reached a hundred with his 21st four.

All of which evoked profound sympathy for Nasser Hussain, who needs a substantial innings to remind the England selectors of his unquestionable ability.

Clearly mindful of this, Hussain proceeded with a caution ren- dered cruelly pedestrian by Law's fluency, so that when taken at first slip off Paras Mhambrey he had scored only seven off 33 balls.

Paul Prichard also appeared somewhat yawn-worthy in lumbering to 53 in a little over two hours, at which point Law highlighted his progress with an effortless straight six off Narendra Hirwani.

His final bounty off 147 balls contained 26 fours and laid both foundation and superstructure on the Essex mas- ter plan.

This was duly set out by Prichard with a praiseworthy declaration at the tea interval which invited the tourists to increase their lead of 51 and challenge for a posi- tive conclu- sion today. In this process Ajay Jadeja hit seven fours and two sixes during an unbeaten 55. Prasad and Mhambrey made short work of Robinson and Grayson, with Hussain, who never looked comfortable, following soon after. Law, however, lucky to survive a dropped catch by Tendulkar on 9, ap- plied himself to the task in hand and by the end of the first hour, Essex had put on 40 runs. Supported by Prichard, Law continued to grow in confidence, his 50 coming from a poor delivery by Prasad. After 21 overs, Raju came on at the River End, with Ganguly from the Close End. Both were noticeably less ef- fective than the opening bowlers and Law pro- gressed inexorably towards his 100 which came shortly before lunch. Law and Prichard, continued in much the same vein after lunch until Prichard was caught by Prasad off Rajus bowl- ing after 54 overs. Irani, initially looking vulnerable and betraying more than a little impatience, had to wait for 5 overs before finally scoring a single, but once off the mark, began to hit out and his unbeaten and spirited innings included a hatful of sixes.

Law eventually succumbed to a fine running catch by Prasad off Hirwanis bowling. Rollins had just enough time to notch up 15 before Essex declared for 269 at tea-time. The Tourists second innings began slowly, with some excellent bowling by Cowan, but with Andrew still showing signs of the injury which troubled him yesterday. Rathore went early, to a fine catch by Rollins, but Jadeja, in excellent form, coasted effortlessly to an unbeaten 55 at close of play.

Day 3: Indians' grace without favour

Essex (269-5 dec & 207-6) drew with the Indians (320-8 dec & 223-6 dec)

The gentle conclusion of a match that seldom offered the prospect of an exciting finish established little for the faithful congre- gation at the County Ground except that warm and balmy days still exist and these Indian tourists know how to grace them with mellow cricket.

Only an hour's play was lost - to bad light - during this Tetley Challenge match and conditions were generally so sublime that only exceptionally incisive bowling might have forced a positive result. As neither side were particularly blessed in this respect the outcome, much as expected, was reached at the end of the day's statutory allocation of overs.

Paul Grayson looked particularly crestfallen then when having spilled Ajay Jadeja at cover off John Childs, he subsequently put down Saurav Ganguly, at backward point off Ron- nie Irani. In fact these lapses did not seriously affect the tac- tical pro- gress of a match of generally gentle disposition: the tourists, astride an overnight lead of 132 ambled on to an open-ended de- claration seven overs after lunch. At this juncture a minimum of 51 overs remained and the overall equation required Essex to score at a little under 5.5 runs an over.

The loss of Darren Robinson in the third over did not serious- ly dampen the prospects as Hussain was quickly into an authorita- tive vein, striking his first ball from Prasad sweetly through the covers for four. With Hussain on 31 and Robert Rol- lins on 32 another element was introduced during the tea inter- val when Stuart Law was awarded his county cap which raised speculation that he might celebrate the occa- sion by scoring his 1,000th run of the season.

In fact the prolific Australian fell 11 runs short when, on 13, he pulled Sunil Joshi high to midwicket where Sanjay Manjrekar took a comfortable catch. This brought in Irani to join Hussain in what proved to be the last realistic hope of an Essex victo- ry. Irani, whose aggressive batting has clinched two championship matches this season - against Wor- cestershire and Hants - looked capable of a similar performance un- til, on 29, he lofted Joshi to Paraf Mhambrey on the long-off boundary.

When Hussain, having hit a solidly responsible 85 off 109 balls, with nine fours, was bowled attempting to sweep Naren- dra Hirwani, Essex had little option but to pull up the drawbridge.

Opener Navjot Sidhu, who became the first Indian cricketer to walk out of a touring team in 64 years of Test cricket, has returned to Delhi. ``I'd had enough and couldn't take any more,'' Sidhu told reporters. ``I'm sorry but I can't say anything more at this stage.''

Sidhu, 32, quit the tour of England on Monday and announced his immediate retirement from Test cricket after he was dropped from the side for the third one-day international, which India lost by four wickets at Old Trafford.

Source: The Electronic Telegraph
Editorial comments can be sent to The Electronic Telegraph at et@telegraph.co.uk