Cricket / County Championship: Such pleasure for revitalised Essex: Henry Blofeld reports from Chelmsford

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The Independent Online
Hampshire 233 and 5-0; Essex 298

AFTER almost two days of irredeemable batting boredom, Essex's last pair, Peter Such and John Childs, put on 79 dramatically exciting, entertaining and unlikely runs in 17 overs which took them to 298 all out and a probably decisive lead of 65. Hampshire made 233 in their first innings and are 5-0 in their second.

Batting had been a struggle all day and only Paul Prichard and Jonathan Lewis had looked convincing. Ian Turner, Hampshire's 24-year-old left-arm spinner with his first ever tally of five wickets in an innings, had made it look as if Hampshire themselves would gain a slender lead.

The ninth Essex wicket fell at 219 and then, uncertainly at first, Such and Childs edged their way towards the Hampshire total against the spin of Turner and Shaun Udal. A square cut by Such off Udal put Essex ahead and to celebrate, Childs launched a remarkable assault on Turner.

Childs, who has a lovely flowing drive, hit Turner straight and over long-on for three successive fours and Such contributed a fourth in an over which produced 18 runs and on it went. Malcolm Marshall took the second new ball, Such off-drove and square-cut him for fours, the Hampshire captain walked around with increasing agitation and both batsmen passed their previous best score before Childs was bowled by Jonathan Ayling.

Earlier, Essex had gained two batting points, giving them six for the match, which means that if they pick up 16 more for winning, the County Championship will be theirs. This lead should bring them victory for, in spite of Such and Childs, who made Hampshire panic in the way that sizeable last-wicket partnerships can, scoring runs will again become a careworn occupation on this sullen pitch.

At the start Essex had hoped for great things from Graham Gooch, the batsman most likely to overcome the conditions. He found it hard work though, and after batting through 20 overs played Ayling heartily off his legs and was unlucky to see Robin Smith hold a very good catch at short midwicket.

Gooch returned to the pavilion and later had a precautionary X-ray on his right wrist where he has for some time been troubled by a ganglion, but all is apparently well. His departure let in Paul Prichard who, in partnership with Lewis, made sure that Essex collected those two crucial batting points.

It was a pitch that allowed the bowlers no margin for error with their length and Prichard, in particular, with his quick footwork, took advantage of those that there were. Lewis did sterling work at the other end. He has an excellent method, was prepared to bide his time and grasp for the runs. These two put on 92 for the third wicket and then, after useful contributions from Derek Pringle and Don Topley, Such and Childs took charge.

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