Cricket: Durham in tailspin

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The Independent Online
Durham . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .278 and 241

Sussex . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .411 and 109-2

Sussex won by eight wickets

AND on the third day, the wicket took spin. Down the Hove hill, as befits county cricket's oldest operator, came Eddie Hemmings, persistent and probing. By tea he owed his Sussex team-mates a jug of beer for five cheap Durham wickets. At the sea end twirled the pacy leg breaks of Ian Salisbury, adding three scalps to the four he gathered on Thursday.

It is a rare pleasure to see two attacking spinners bowling substantial spells in the sunshine and it was appreciated more by the Sussex supporters than the Durham batsmen, who had started the day behind but not irretrievably so.

Cricket is never dull when Wayne Larkins and John Morris are in the mood for a fight, and after Durham lost Mark Saxelby early they strove to cancel out Sussex's first-innings advantage. For a while the play was as bright and breezy as the Hove weather.

Larkins progressed in boundaries to all parts of the compass, and he bent back Salisbury's spinning fingers with a vicious straight drive. But most of his efforts were directed at Paul Jarvis, attacking up the slope, who greeted each frustrated effort with an exasperated roar. He fits in well at Sussex, where they shout appreciation of competent deliveries and chorus 'catch it' to straightforward defensive shots.

The Larkins/Morris interlude was too carefree to last though, and when Salisbury's revenge on Larkins came with a mid-on catch, Durham were still 26 runs short of Sussex's commanding total.

Both teams arrived with much to play for. Last September Sussex slipped into the bottom half of the Championship table and Durham, as is their wont, were propping it up. Yet the visitors won three of their first six games this season and were fifth on Thursday, with Sussex lurking one run and 22 points below them.

Durham's first three batsmen, Larkins, Saxelby - newly arived this season from Trent Bridge - and Morris are averaging 50-plus, but they are followed by the longest tail on the circuit. Yesterday it was Morris's job to persuade it to wag, and at lunch he was still there on 55. But Durham were barely ahead, the middle order was exposed, and the spin twins were beginning to relish their work.

Early in the afternoon Morris sat back on his stumps to a straight one from Hemmings, and Sussex began to scent a holiday Monday. The aroma thickened when Anderson Cummins, like Sussex's Franklyn Stephenson a quick bowler who rightly bats up the order, stepped back to flail irresponsibly at Salisbury's flipper.

There was late resistance in a character-building innings by Jonathan Longley, and he could only stretch Sussex's evening target to 109. Bill Athey had a sharp reminder that batting is sport's most humbling discipline, following up Friday's 166 by being bowled first ball. But the captain Alan Wells and Neil Lenham ensured on a sharp shadowed evening that Monday would indeed be a day of rest.