Cricket / County Championship: Stephenson stands firm against onslaught from Williams

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The Independent Online
Sussex . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 161

Middlesex . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .20-0

BATTING was never going to be easy on a cold, damp day and it was, to say the least, surprising when Alan Wells decided to bat first. The Sussex innings was broken in the morning when seven wickets fell for 84 before Franklyn Stephenson plundered 60 runs after lunch, which took their final tally to 161. When the weather finally intervened, Middlesex were 20 for no wicket from 10 overs.

Apart from the unfriendly weather with rain imminent all day, the pitch was green and allowed Neil Williams enough movement away from the right-hander to take 6 for 61. It was damp enough to allow John Emburey some slow turn.

One would have thought that if ever there was a day for putting the opposition in to bat this was it. It also seemed a curious decision for Sussex to leave out Tony Pigott, an experienced seam bowler who took nine wickets in this match last year.

Williams, who played one Test against India in 1990, is not an especially consistent performer but can be quite a handful. He revelled in the conditions and also profited from some less than resolute batting by players who, Bill Athey apart, did not always look as if they relished the challenge.

Angus Fraser shared the new ball with Williams and bowled 13 overs without any inconvenience but also without looking quite the bowler of old. He still seems to hold back at the point of delivery and his run-up is slightly more measured than it was. None the less, these are early days.

Middlesex's third seam bowler was none other than Norman Cowans, whose last Championship outing was at Chelmsford in September 1991. He picked up two good wickets - Athey and Stephenson - and survived the day without any physical ill effects.

Sussex's demise was not long in starting. They had made six when Neil Lenham played forward to a ball from Williams which went down the slope and was caught by John Carr at second slip. Athey and David Smith then produced the most sensible batting of the Sussex innings. They had to work hard for their runs and were prepared to fight it out while waiting for the chance to score.

They had taken the score to 53 when Athey pushed forward to Cowans and was caught by Carr at forward short-leg off bat and pad. In the next over Smith played forward to John Emburey and was bowled by one which turned past the left-hander's outside edge. Seven runs later Alan Wells was bowled driving at Emburey and then his brother, Colin, was caught behind, driving at Williams.

It was only spirited resistance after lunch by those two former Nottinghamshire stalwarts, Stephenson, who hit seven fours, and Eddie Hemmings, which took Sussex past 150.

Alan Igglesden, who won his only cap in the last Test against Australia in 1989, took 6 for 58 on a helpful wicket at Darlington yesterday after Durham had been put in. Durham collapsed from 110 for 2 to 160 all out then put down two catches as Kent replied with 93 for 2.