Cricket: Salisbury struggling

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Sussex 424

Worcestershire 253 and 293-8

SUSSEX still have work to do but they are strongly placed to force a victory that would put them in good heart for the NatWest Trophy semi-final against Glamorgan on Tuesday, a match which will decide the direction of their season. Lose it and the dreaded quest for respectability in the Championship becomes all important.

Worcestershire, already well down that road, had the best of the first hour in limiting their first- innings deficit to 171 but were then undone by the tidy medium pace of John North and the seasoned off-spin of Eddie Hemmings. To the notable wickets of Tim Curtis and Graeme Hick, North added that of Martin Weston, who proved the most oburate of the top three.

Hick looked ill at ease except when facing Ian Salisbury, off whom he took all 21 of his runs before giving a catch at the wicket, pushing defensively down the wrong line. A big score had seemed there for the taking against an inexperienced attack lacking Franklyn Stephenson, who is being rested in advance of Tuesday.

Salisbury had a wretched time before lunch, bowling a three-over mixture of long hops and full tosses that cost 28 runs. Lesser players than Hick would have taken advantage and Alan Wells, the Sussex captain, had no choice but to take him off. The youthful new-ball pair Ed Giddins and Danny Law, had conceded nearly five an over and the lead was rapidly evaporating.

To his creidt, Salisbury bowled better in his subsequent spells, though there were few overs without at least one loose delivery. Thanks to the agility of Peter Moores he ended the stand between Steve Rhodes and Phil Newport that delayed Sussex longest. No matter that the delivery was a long hop that Rhodes edged on to his pad in attempting to pull; wickets will restore Salisbury's confidence and it is not just Sussex who need him to rediscover his best.

In a lengthy spell either side of tea, Hemmings showed the way. Offering the occasional glimpse of variation and maintaining an impeccable line, he was rewarded with three wickets, two of them to catches close to the bat, with Worcestershire still in arrears.

Worcestershire needed a mere seven overs at the start to take the last four Sussex wickets. Wells added only five runs to his 128 overnight before falling to Newport, who had an outstanding day all round. Fifteen minutes before the close he pulled Giddins high over sqaure leg for four to reach a half-century that has given Worcestershire hope. With two wickets remaining, they lead by 122.