Cricket: Lara undoes Knight's work

Sussex v Warwickshire
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THE SCENE was well set yesterday afternoon for Brian Lara to rack up a fourth batting point for Warwickshire and then stroke his way to his first century of the season. His opening batsmen had both made substantial centuries, and he strode in to face Jason Lewry with his team rock solid at 342 for 2. The pressure, surely, was off.

Lewry dipped the first delivery into Lara's pads, but the umpire, Mervin Kitchen, reprieved the Warwickshire captain. Not so second ball, the repeated thud that rewarded Lewry giving Lara his second successive duck. He has only batted beyond 50 twice this season, and averages just 22. His team are near the bottom of the table, and urgently need their captain to reward them with mental inspiration and runs.

From the platform provided by the openers, Michael Powell and Nick Knight, it seems hard to credit that Warwickshire could not climb to that fourth bonus point. David Hemp, who came in first wicket down on Wednesday night, was as becalmed as the Ancient Mariner in a Hove sea-fret, and when the cut-off point of 120 overs passed, Warwickshire were on 343, seven short, and he had spent 32 overs compiling 17 painful runs.

The first session, however, had seen Knight consolidate his overnight century and eventually move beyond the 150 mark. He had made his point to the England selectors, who, in calling for Steve James, confirm that they see Knight as a one-day man, but the Warwickshire opener will not see this as one of his most fluent efforts even though he came within 16 runs of a career-best score. The flowing drives were few, probably outnumbered by snicks, and he batted for seven and a half hours, but it was a determined and restorative exercise.

A comparative clatter of wickets followed Lara's dismissal, and the Warwickshire spinners, Neil Smith and Ashley Giles, will have noted that they fell to the slow left-arm of Toby Peirce - his first scalp - and the brisker left-arm spin of Michael Bevan. But at 4.45 a murky day became wet as well, and play stopped for two hours.

At the time they are normally taking their evening shower, the players trooped out on to an almost empty ground, attempting to complete a further 29 overs. So far, evening Championship cricket has been unable to compete with sad weather and the football World Cup.