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Durham v Essex

Reports from the Electronic Telegraph

13-16 May 1998

Day 1: Gough's slow 62 rescues Durham

By Charles Randall at Riverside

First day of four: Essex (0-0) trail Durham (276) by 276 runs

MICHAEL Gough's painstaking 62 on his first-class debut struck a blow for tortoises among hares because the 18-year-old saved Durham's first innings from what might have been early dispatch at the Riverside yesterday.

Essex's phalanx of swing bowlers, notably Ronnie Irani, bent the ball past the outside edge all day, and some judicious leaving by Gough intensified their frustration.

Arms often went aloft but there were few chances, though Darren Robinson held an early one and Stuart Law produced a superb sharp catch plunging forwards.

The tall, slight Gough, a member of the England Under-19 World Cup team last winter, rode his luck coolly and did not look at all embarrassed.

His father, Mike, was a renowned grafter for Durham in their minor county days, and the son wore the family marque with distinction, concentrating for 4.75 hours, during which he managed only three boundaries.

Nearly all his runs came through the leg side, not surprisingly, as his grip had an unorthodox closed-face look to it, but, with one end bricked up by Gough, stroke-makers such as Nick Speak, Paul Collingwood and Martin Speight progressed with freedom.

Speak, and eventually Gough, fell to Mark Ilott offering no stroke, and the otherwise impressive Collingwood pulled a catch to a square-leg fielder placed there for the purpose. Speight played on to give Danny Wilson a wicket on his championship debut.

Day 2: Essex rue Gooch's role at Durham

By Charles Randall at Riverside

Second day of four: Durham (276 & 104-3) lead Essex (185) by 195 runs

RIVERSIDE looked a picture in the sunshine yesterday - like a Martin Speight watercolour - and the scenery will give even more pleasure to the locals if their Durham team follow through a winning position against Essex.

Durham's bowlers applied relentless pressure on Essex's batsman to secure a first-innings lead of 91, helped on the way by the run-out of Nasser Hussain.

David Boon was absent with a broken toe, but the way the Australian's side fought it out session by session suggested that his influence remained. And no doubt Graham Gooch, visiting up north as batting coach, took some wry satisfaction at how his new protÚgÚs racked up enough runs to bury his former Essex team-mates.

It was suggested jocularly to Gooch that he could don the pads against the only county he had never taken a hundred off. He declined, and it was highly unlikely that the old stager could have influenced events at the crease in any case, with the ball seaming and swinging around, extravagantly at times.

Essex have made a brittle start to their season and Stuart Law, who made championship hundreds against Durham in the previous two years, failed this time.

Essex were jolted early on when Paul Grayson had his off stump smashed out by a break-back from Melvyn Betts early on, and most of the snicks were held.

Hussain was run out after hesitating for a split second when Michael Gough half-stopped Law's leg-side clip; Law soon followed, dabbing unwisely against Nicky Phillips's off-spin, and even Ronnie Irani's aggression could not turn things around.

Irani removed Gough, the first-innings rock, in reply, but Nick Speak, the stand-in captain, used his rich ability in the evening to put Durham in charge. A few minutes before the close he survived a scare when Hussain admitted that he did not know whether he had taken a tumbling catch at cover, allowing Speak to stay.

Day 3: Durham slip beyond the reach of Law

By Charles Randall at Riverside

Third day of four: Essex (185 & 196-6) need 143 to beat Durham (276 & 247)

THE first hat-trick of this summer's professional circuit went to Danny Law, the Essex seam bowler, yesterday, but this did not prevent Durham from seizing control of a fascinating match at Riverside.

Durham, clearly a competitive force this year, even in the absence of their three Test players for this game, showed vigour and skill to push Essex close to their second championship defeat in three games.

Essex's day began well when Law removed Nick Speak with the first ball, and he added his hat-trick later in the morning. Nasser Hussain's side looked like contenders until they were rebuffed by an eccentric last-wicket stand of 43.

Law's first two hat-trick victims, Michael Foster and Nicky Phillips, were both held at second slip off out- swingers: caught Law (S), bowled Law (D). The third wicket, off the first ball of his next over, was Melvyn Betts's, lbw pushing forward.

This first hat-trick seen at Riverside hinted at a brighter future for Law, 22, a Londoner who experienced a miserable start to his Essex career last year and reached what he regarded as his lowest ebb a month ago with some expensive bowling at Worcester.

He adjusted his action during the winter, going more chest-on to relieve stress on his back, and he experienced the sort of self-doubt that afflicts golfers who change their swing. He said yesterday: ``It's been frustrating, but days like this make you realise it's all worthwhile.''

Essex, left to make 339 in almost five sessions, found the going too perilous on a wearing pitch. Hussain was almost dismissed off the first four balls he received from Betts, but after scares galore he could look back on his chanceless 63 with real satisfaction.

The promotion of Paul Grayson to open proved unsuccessful and Stuart Law, in lethargic form, was clean bowled driving at Betts, Durham's more penetrative bowler.

Day 4: Durham find good Betts for England

By Charles Randall at Riverside

MELVYN BETTS added more gloss to his growing seam-bowling reputation as Durham mopped up Essex's remaining four wickets to win by 95 runs at Riverside yesterday morning.

The clear-cut finish gave Betts ample time, as a Newcastle United supporter, to watch the FA Cup final at nearby Sacriston Cricket Club, where his family encouraged him to take up the game at the age of 12.

The Tyneside Senior League programme had been cancelled to allow club players to watch the Wembley coverage. Maybe, one day, the same paths will be cleared when Durham reach a cricket final at Lord's, a prospect much closer than it was last year.

Betts took six wickets for 83 in Essex's second innings and he beat the outside edge so often that his figures might easily have matched his nine-wicket rampage at Northampton last year.

Betts, 23, was overlooked for the England A tour, and the selectors have since indicated that the reason was the destination - Sri Lanka and its bland pitches - though the Durham player enjoyed a reasonably successful tour there with England Under-19s four years ago.

True to his reputation of being self-critical, he did not believe he bowled especially well against Essex. He said: ``I'm struggling with my rhythm. I was falling away a lot in my delivery, but my wrist action was good, so the ball still swung.''

Some overall Durham improvement in the championship, in which they have had an appalling record, should give Betts a deserved shove up the England ladder. He said: ``There is no reason why we can't finish high up in everything - top six in the championship, for example.

``We're gelling together, playing more as a team. We probably won every session against Essex. What has happened this year is that all the players have enjoyed each other's success, and we enjoy each other's company more.''

Essex offered no excuses for their second defeat in three games, because both sides were short of important players - the absence of Paul Prichard, Peter Such and Ashley Cowan countered by Durham's loss of David Boon and Simon Brown - and Betts was justified in his session observation. Essex were beaten each time, and even Danny Law's hat-trick on Friday could not save them.

Yesterday Essex had an outside chance on this wearing pitch if Robert Rollins and Danny Law could have extended a promising partnership, but Rollins ended a good innings by driving Betts high to cover and Law soon followed, bowled on the forward defence.

All the Durham players made some sort of contribution to victory, but Michael Gough, another born and bred in the county, could look back with special pride on his debut.

After the elation of scoring 62, he ran out Nasser Hussain, making his first return to Durham since leaving university there in 1989, in Essex's first innings and held a magnificent catch, diving as the ball looped over him in the covers to dismiss his England Under-19 colleague Stephen Peters.

Source: The Electronic Telegraph
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Date-stamped : 17 May1998 - 10:25