Cricket: Hussain and Waugh put Essex in control

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The Independent Online
reports from Ilford

Essex 318-9 v Warwickshire

High-class batting by Nasser Hussain and Mark Waugh, who put on 152 for the third wicket, was mostly responsible for taking Essex to a total which should be enough to win them this match on an awkward pitch.

Not enough water had been used in the preparation, odd balls jumped all day on to the batsman's gloves when the over-dry surface crumbled as the ball made impact. Before long the spinners will be turning it square.

Warwickshire made a good start, too, when Graham Gooch pushed Allan Donald low to forward short leg for his second nought in succession, and Darren Robinson was lbw coming forward but playing no stroke to Tim Munton. Essex were then 2 for 2.

Hussain and Waugh were constantly wringing their fingers early on against the seam bowlers, but by taking the bottom hand off the bat or by playing with soft hands they negotiated their early overs, when the new ball was still hard, with great skill.

Then they began to play their strokes; Waugh in his solid, upright and pleasingly copybook style, Hussain with his sound but more hurried footwork, putting more wrist into his strokes with his usual onside bias.

While spin is likely to have the last word at Valentine's Park, a small, busy and charming ground, its first short sentence was less than articulate. Neil Smith's opening five overs of offspin cost 26 runs and his fifth went for 16 as Waugh picked him up over midwicket, straight and square, and drove him for four, six and four.

Their stand ended in a muddle when Hussain called Waugh for a quick run to silly mid-off and after much hesitation by the batsmen, Donald, the bowler, ran out Waugh with an underarm throw. Hussain was the fourth to go, at 207, six short of his hundred, when he tried to pull away from another lifter and was well caught behind off his glove. He hit 16 fours.

By then, Paul Prichard had started well, hitting four early fours and hereabouts one felt that Warwickshire's bowlers were serving up too many bad balls, although one took a wicket when Prichard square cut a long hop from Smith low to cover.

Ronnie Irani has grown accustomed to batting when Essex have a struggle on their hands and is looking a more disciplined player as a result. Here he produced some good strokes, chanced his arm when the risk was reasonable, and reached an invaluable fifty.