Cricket: Bells ring out for Bevan

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The Independent Online
Worcs 353-9 dec and 24-0 Sussex 278

THE campanologists had a field day here yesterday. Indeed, it sounded as if the bells were ringing for everything but Christmas Day, and to be honest a croak or two from Shane McGowan might have been more in order, so woefully did the Sussex top order batting accompany the jolly pealers first thing in the morning.

Not that there was a lot to sing about either side of Michael Bevan's classy 96 which lifted Sussex back into the game from their shaky start of 33 for 3.

Worcestershire had declared their first innings at the overnight score of 353 for 9, and must have been delighted how quickly they made inroads. The pitch didn't look a particularly difficult one on which to put bat to ball - after all, Graeme Hick had picked up his 99th hundred here on Friday - but throughout the first session the Sussex batsmen struggled. As often as not, though, the problem was the line on which the Worcestershire seam bowlers attacked. When they put their backs into their work, the ball flew disconcertingly, but generally they probed away just outside off stump, content to let the visitors nibble their way into trouble.

Bevan, however, is too experienced a hand to fall for that line. Test cricket has found him fallible to the ball climbing up under his rib cage. And while Phil Newport found enough bounce to wrap the Australian left- hander on the top hand soon after lunch, it was patience rather than courage that the innings required.

When he and 22-year-old James Carpenter applied it in a fourth-wicket partnership that added exactly 100, the bowlers for the time being had to concede some primacy.

His fellow Australian Tom Moody breached Bevans' defences when he was 19, but only with a no-ball. Otherwise, Bevan gave the bowlers nothing, flicking fours off his legs and limiting his off-side shots until safely past his half-century, reached off 102 balls. Then the drives came handsomely, and he faced only 66 more deliveries before falling lbw to Stuart Lampitt four short of a century, having struck 18 boundaries.

It was Newport who began Sussex's misfortunes, having Toby Peirce lbw in his second over. Pushing forward vaguely with little movement at the back, the left-hander - one of five in the Sussex top six - gave the umpire little doubt as to his demise. Nor did Chris Adams, caught at third slip in Newport's fifth over. Two square-driven boundaries represented his only serious contact with the ball, and if Adams aspires to Test cricket he would be advised to treat the new ball with a modicum of respect early on.

Wasim Khan, the other left-handed opener, certainly did that, negotiating eight overs before locating the boundary. Where he let himself down was in under-estimating David Leatherdale's arm and aim when chancing a single to extra cover. Leatherdale from cover bisected the ball's progress and almost in the same action threw down the non-striker's wicket.

As the bowlers tired late on a delightfully warm day, Shaun Humphries and James Kirtley frustrated Worcestershire with career-best scores while putting on 79 in 27 overs for the eighth wicket.

Lampitt's fifth-wicket strike, however, left the home side 75 runs ahead, and so the stage is nicely set for Hick to have a shot today at his 100th hundred. Should he achieve that elite landmark, those bells will have something to chime about.