JAMIE HALL did his bit for posterity by grinding his way to the slowest half-century in the history of the County Championship as Sussex crawled to a first-innings lead over Surrey yesterday.
He dawdled to 50 in 304 minutes, easily passing the previous record of 290 which was set in 1889 by R G 'Dick' Barlow, who was immortalised in the lines - '. . . As the run-stealers flicker to and fro, To and fro: - O my Hornby and my Barlow long ago]' - from the poem At Lord's by Francis Thompson.
In fact the only flickering scene on a sweltering day was that of the eyelids of the crowd as they struggled to stay awake. Hall jolted everybody by taking a quick single off the 228th ball of his innings which took him to his sixth Championship half-century of the summer, the record and it also signalled a marked change of mood.
Having hit just three boundaries to that point, Hall accelerated from sluggish to snail's pace with a further half dozen fours before his innings was brought to a merciful end. He had made 85, his highest of the summer, when he spooned a simple catch off Adam Hollioake to Alec Stewart at mid-on.
After his stay of six hours and 20 minutes at the crease, during which time he faced a total of 304 balls, Hall admitted: 'I was probably painful to watch. It won't be one to tell the grandchildren.'
Conditions had looked near perfect in the morning when Sussex resumed on their overnight 40 for 2 but no batsmen seemed to be able to get going. Even Martin Speight, whose very name conjures up visions of a flood of runs and who certainly has the talent to provide them, failed. Perhaps he was unsettled after having to leave the action before lunch to have some thunder flies removed from his left eye.
He was then kept waiting in the dressing-room until shortly before tea by a 132-run stand between Hall and Peter Moores. The wicketkeeper fell lbw for 66 which brought in Speight for four overs, then it was off for the interval and finally out for a bitter-sweet 16 in the first over after tea.
Hall followed him soon after but then came an enterprising stand of 54 for the seventh wicket with Carlos Remy and Franklyn Stephenson going for their shots. Stephenson, the Barbadian all-rounder, went so far as to hook the new ball for six when Cameron Cuffy attempted to dig one in.
Surrey, having begun the match as Championship leaders, had had to do without any bonus points in their first innings and they also missed out on maximum bowling points. That was chiefly because of a lusty knock by Remy, who unleashed some five-star drives as he steered Sussex past 300 on his way to a maiden first-class half-century. Hollioake soon wrapped it up with his fourth wicket of the innings.