Cricket: Drakes proves Law breaker

Essex 360 Sussex 363 & 335-8
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Unfashionable and unassuming, Sussex also proved unyielding at Chelmsford yesterday. Their role was to lie down and let Essex roll over them. Instead, they scored enough runs to make an Essex victory tomorrow uncertain. Indeed, Sussex could blight Essex's Championship chances, just as they did Yorkshire's five weeks ago.

When the season is over that may be all that lingers in the memory of the spectators, but the day's play was not entirely without incident. Literally so, for the highlight was an incident embracing the only players who generated any exhilaration - the Australian Stuart Law (three for seven in 20 balls) and the Barbadian Vasbert Drakes (100 off 125 balls). Without the overseas players, this would have been a dour day's cricket.

Last week, Essex hoped Law would return from Colombo in time for the NatWest final, but he wouldn't have made much difference at Lord's. However, he did yesterday. Law was the sixth bowler Paul Prichard had tried, and the other five had taken only one wicket between them.

The reference books describe Law as a right-arm medium or, alternatively, a leg-break bowler, and yesterday he was trying his leggies on a flat wicket of variable bounce and minimal turn. Law is fiercely committed, and his leg breaks are the only gentle thing about him; aged 27, 6ft 2in tall, he takes six short steps to the wicket and, using his height, got more turn than any of the standard spinners.

In the 57th over, Keith Greenfield took him lightly enough to try to tickle him down the leg-side and was given out lbw. Bill Athey had looked as though he intended to bat all day - and the crowd feared he might - but Law probed a weakness that others had not found, and a ball that floated across Athey caught an edge and was caught by Nasser Hussain at slip. In the next over, Law tempted Keith Newell in the same way and Ashley Cowan caught him in the gulley.

Believing he had made it four wickets in a row - Law felt he had Drakes caught in the gulley on 10, but Alan Whitehead turned down his appeal - he behaved so petulantly that Whitehead told Prichard to quieten him down. Prichard inflamed the row instead, and although the umpires didn't make a federal case of it, they could have done so.

Drakes, unperturbed, neutralised the impact of Law's spell in a stand of 112 with Alan Wells, and when the wickets began to fall, he just kept on going. He hit two immense sixes and 15 fours for his second hundred in a fortnight. If everyone else prefers to forget the day, he will remember it.

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