Kaneria cramps Hampshire's style
Hampshire 306 for 7 (Crawley 97) v Essex at Chelmsford
"It's not all doom and gloom," Essex's coach, Graham Gooch, reportedly said following their trouncing at the hands of Yorkshire last Saturday. For those county members who had been hopeful of a promotion challenge this season, Gooch's words may have been wondering how no Championship wins in seven attempts can constitute anything other than a terrifying nightmare. But their spirits were lifted on a day of several shifts in power, that ended with Essex seizing the initiative, just about.
Nic Pothas and Dimitri Mascarenhas's assured sixth-wicket stand of 62 had threatened to spoil the day for Essex, but their Pakistani import, Danish Kaneira, struck two late blows in two balls - including Shane Warne first ball - as Hampshire closed with 306 for 7, on a pitch that has plenty more runs in it yet.
Essex haven't had a matchwinning spinner since Peter Such and John Childs, back in their early-1990s' heyday. But, come the end of the season, Essex may be very grateful for Kaneria's contribution. He finished the day with 4 for 91 from 32 sweaty overs, showing that his 13 wickets last week against Yorkshire was no one-off. He doesn't find a great deal of turn, but he rarely offers batsmen gift-horses. Rather he ploughs on at one end like a shire horse, boring the batsmen into false shots.
It wasn't the first time in the day that Essex had seized the initiative. The first hour, in muggy heat, produced claustrophobic bowling from Darren Gough and Graham Napier. Hampshire lost Michael Brown without a run on the board, as Napier plucked out his off stump to a pitched-up delivery. Only 26 runs were scored in the first hour by Derek Kenway and John Crawley - perhaps a symptom of the the 12 o'clock start, after last night's floodlit National League encounter between the teams.
The wicket of Kenway, caught at gully by Andy Flower off Kaneria with the score on 38, should have had Essex scenting blood, but instead it was the Australian Michael Clarke who took control, upping the tempo and the eyelids of the spectators. Crawley joined in the fun after lunch as they put on 137 and looked like taking the game away from Essex. But Clarke's innings of 69 was brought to an end when he mistimed a drive and offered a return catch to Kaneria.
Just after tea, Darren Gough produced his best bowling spell in an Essex shirt, to remove Will Kendall (19) and Crawley, who drove at a widish one three short of his first century of the season. At 224 for 5, Hampshire were back in trouble, but throughout the day, fortunes fluctuated as much as Peter Andre's singing career. The partnership between Mascarenhas and Pothas, who reached his fourth half-century of the summer, had Essex worried. But Mascarenhas fell to Kaneria, again snaffling a return catch. Warne followed, playing around a straight one. The wicket may have embarrassed Warne, but you could bet he - and the Essex batsmen - were thinking: "If this boy Kaneria can do it, then I sure as hell can too."