Cricket: Essex's lesson in class

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The Independent Online
Sussex . . . . . . . . . . . . .429-9 dec and 104

Essex . . . . . . . . . . . . .303-1 dec and 231-2

Essex win by 8 wickets

IN A match which contained any amount of wonderful batting the best was kept to the end when Graham Gooch and Mark Waugh dissected some highly acceptable Sussex spin bowling yesterday.

In the morning, the only ambitions of the Sussex batsmen were the most negative and pointless form of survival. They lost their last seven wickets - Peter Moores was unfit - for 41 runs allowing Peter Such to take 6 for 17 with his off-breaks, the best figures of his career.

While Sussex had managed only two fours in 100 minutes of batting, Gooch and John Stephenson put 31 on the board with six fours in the four remaining overs before lunch. Essex needed 231 in a minimum of 72 overs and such was the breathtaking superiority of Gooch and Waugh in the afternoon that they needed only 40 of these while scoring 231 for 2 and winning by eight wickets.

The pitch did not take that much spin contrary to anything Such's figures may suggest but whereas Sussex's batsmen were so utterly unimaginative in their intentions that Such and John Childs always had four or five fielders round the bat, Essex made it clear from the start that they were not going to allow anything similar.

There is often something magnificent, not to say thunderous, about Gooch's batting. He began with a glance and a straight drive off Tony Pigott in the first over of the Essex second innings. In the second, bowled by the off-spinner, Brad Donelan, he pulled and off drove for two more fours and set the unmistakable example he wanted followed.

There was a momentary hiccup after lunch when Stephenson lunged forward to Ian Salisbury's leg-spin and was caught at silly mid-off. One wondered briefly if the Sussex spinners might after all take control and at 72 Paul Prichard pushed Donelan to forward short-leg.

Waugh, who departs on 31 July to play for Australia in Sri Lanka, emerged and was soon playing strokes which were in a different realm almost to Gooch's. When Donelan threw one up wide of the off stump he delayed his drive and with exquisite timing lent into the stroke and sent the ball away to the backward point boundary.

Donelan responded with a ball which must have pitched on a good length around middle and leg. In half the blink of an eye, Waugh was two paces down the wicket and drove the ball without seeming to do more than stroke it, wide of mid-on for four. I was left wondering if I had ever seen a more impressive stroke. It was done so quickly yet nothing was hurried.

On it went. Gooch was the more lusty reaching his second hundred of the match from 124 balls just before the end. Waugh, who had been out only once in the seven days at Southchurch Park while scoring more than 300 runs, made an unforgettable 85 from 79 balls. Essex will miss him badly although there is an irresistible rhythm to their cricket just now.

It was not that Salisbury or Donelan bowled badly either. They were up against something exceptional on a day when Sussex were harshly forced to appreciate the huge gulf that exists between county and Test cricket. They only have to reproach themselves for their absurd approach with the bat at the start of the day.