IN the morning Essex progressed like the champions they are when they took the first four Sussex wickets for 73. For most of the rest of the day, however, they were held up by an increasingly impressive partnership between David Smith and Peter Moores.
These two took their fifth-wicket stand past 200 in 52 overs in a splendid rescue operation. Soon after, Essex, who lead by 37 points in the County Championship, resorted to their eighth bowler.
Coming on to bowl the 17th over of the day, John Childs took 3 for 7 in 6.2 overs becoming in the process the first bowler to take 50 first-class wickets this season.
It began to look as if Southchurch Park might have been getting up to its old tricks. Essex were docked 25 points when they beat Yorkshire here three years ago, but in truth the ball scarcely turned and the early Sussex batting was bad.
After Jamie Hall had been leg-before playing forward and across the line to Derek Pringle, Neil Lenham pushed forward to Childs and the ball rolled back on to his stumps. Alan Wells was caught at silly mid-off playing forward - this was the 50th wicket - and Martin Speight drove and was caught at slip.
Smith and Moores survived with considerable anxiety until lunch. Then, led by Smith, they began to dispatch half-volleys, square cut and pull anything short and sweep Childs when he erred down the leg side.
Moores also put the earlier batting to shame as he defended with reasonable security and profited with some delightful strokes when the bowlers gave him the chance. He eventually fell to a catch from John Stephenson off Childs with 109 runs which had taken him 230 minutes to score off 187 balls.
Smith is a much-travelled county cricketer having gone from The Oval to Worcester, back to The Oval and on to Hove. He played two Test matches in the West Indies in 1985-6 and went out there as a reinforcement four years later but immediately broke a finger in a one-day international. He has never quite fulfilled his talent - maybe his temperament has been a handicap - which one could see from this innings is a pretty considerable one.
One of his best strokes was an on-drive against Pringle and as the afternoon went on he became an increasingly commanding figure. He reached his first 100 of the season when he played Steve Andrew off his legs for his 15th four. Although Smith lived edgily against Mark Ilott for a time after tea runs continued to come fast and Smith finished unbeaten on 176.
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