Cricket: Speight adds some spice to old script

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The Independent Online
Somerset 356 and 103-2

Sussex 310-7

THIS is one of those tiresome county games which have little purpose until the third afternoon, and make Australians and West Indians laugh at the ancient institution that is our County Championship. Roll on, four-day cricket, at least for the sake of experiment.

Sussex had stuck Somerset in on the opening day, to bowl them out if things went well, and to await a last afternoon declaration if they did not. Somerset scored 356; Sussex, resuming at 18 for 1, pushed on yesterday until declaring at tea-time, conceding a lead of 46, which will be suitably extended before Chris Tavare's declaration around lunch-time today.

Somerset's seamers did little to hinder the visitors in their sprightly pursuit of full batting points. Stimulated by the sight of bounce, they bowled in that corridor of certainty a foot outside off-stump, where Alan Wells and Martin Speight found that even if they got an edge, it would fly over third man.

Neil Mallender was hit for 13 in his opening over, which roused him into tightening up. He had Jamie Hall dropped at short-leg, then hit his off-stump with a ball keeping low. The full-length delivery, sometimes swinging, is a Mallender speciality, especially when administered after a startling bouncer.

Richard Snell, on paper, has been another of the Great South African Bowling Disasters in county cricket, along with such luminaries as Fanie de Villiers, Hugh Page, Meyrick Pringle and Corrie van Zyl. Before this game his 17 first-class wickets had cost 45 each, the result of banging the ball in short on an overseas length.

Yesterday, as well as dropping short at Wells and Speight, he sprayed the ball on both sides of the wicket, as he experimented with angling the ball in with the breeze. But aside from his bowling, which should improve in time, Snell has not been the worst of signings, being a useful hitter and a general good egg.

The partnership between Wells and Speight added 161 from 38 overs. Wells had his share of fortune early on when Caddick bowled some lifters at him, but thereafter struck the ball as cleanly as Speight. It was Wells's fourth hundred of the season, made in a little under three hours, and brought up his 1,000 runs.

Speight's century was made in easier circumstances, as Somerset awaited the declaration, but was a marginally quicker and more brilliant effort. When 88 he went down on one knee to sweep two consecutive sixes, the first Trump's quicker ball. Speight's strokeplay even bore comparison with Lathwell's in both his innings.