Cricket: Essex find new turn in Such

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The Independent Online
Sussex .......204 and 37-1 Essex ........405-8 dec

ESSEX have long had the knack of plucking players from other counties and revitalising their careers, but if they have succeeded in turning Peter Such into a batsman, their powers are even more mystical than anyone imagined.

Such batted for 50 minutes here yesterday, which is normally as long as he bats in a season, and a career average that used to be one point something is now frighteningly close to four. Much more of this and he might even be in danger of attracting a bouncer or two.

Such's 20 was, in its way, even more of an event than Derek Pringle making a first-class century for the 10th time in 14 years, both of which suggest that Sussex will take a good deal of winkling out today if Essex are to move a step closer to retaining the Championship. Essex had 16 overs at them last night after declaring 201 runs ahead, and they would have been more than satisfied at prising out Jamie Hall shortly before the close. Hall, having just passed 1,000 runs for the season, fell to John Childs' left-arm spin, and became the 11th lbw casualty of the match.

It is not an entirely straightforward pitch, and one or two deliveries have spun quite sharply. Ian Salisbury's figures, which brought him the solitary wicket of Such - stumped by a margin more in keeping with his duffer status - in no way reflected a prolonged spell of high-class leg spin. It may be that Such has a more decisive role to play as a bowler with his off-breaks today.

The start was delayed by an hour and a half because of heavy rain, and Essex did well not to lose more than a couple of wickets early on as Franklyn Stephenson set to work while the moisture was still around.

Not that Mike Garnham's wicket owed much to the pitch, Stephenson producing one of those remarkable doodlebugs of his that the batsman rarely sees, and is eventually out ducking what turns out to be a gentle, floating donkey drop. The most celebrated victim of one of these was also an Essex batsman - Brian Hardie, bowled in a Lord's Cup final - and Garnham, lbw, departed looking equally bewildered.

His dismissal, however, was followed by a century partnership for the fifth wicket between Pringle and Jonathan Lewis, the latter scoring his second first-class hundred in four and a half hours, and steering Essex to their fourth batting point in the last available over.

At that point, the umpires peered long and hard at a badly marked ball and changed it under Law 5 (4) for one of superior quality. It used to be called taking the new ball, but it scarcely bothered Essex, and the Lewis-Pringle liaison was only broken when Pringle cocked a deaf 'un to his partner's call for a second, and Lewis was run out.

For such a big man, Pringle rarely administers much violence to a cricket ball, but he was in one of his more pugilistic moods yesterday, and even hit a couple of sixes (a hook off Colin Wells and a sweep off Salisbury) in his three-and-a-half-hour, 157-ball century.