Cricket: Speight rings the alarm

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Sussex 295 and 257

Worcestershire 317 and 65-1

WHILE Bill Athey was as quiet as the proverbial church mouse here yesterday and had spectators nodding in their seats with a cathedral providing the backdrop, it was Martin Speight who eventually set the bells ringing for Sussex. His 88 turned a crawl into a gallop, though Worcestershire looked happy enough shooting at a target of 236 come half an hour after tea.

When Athey took his farewell, he had spent just under four hours accumulating 57 and his innings was hardly of the Heinz variety. Indeed, Sussex seemed to be digging themselves a hole from which it would be impossible to emerge. Good news for Worcestershire of course, third from bottom in the Championship before the start at New Road and still looking for a first win of the season.

Athey, with two substantial centuries earlier in the month, was restricted to just five boundaries before Richard Illingworth cut him off leg before. Nor had Athey's partner, his captain Allan Wells, exactly pushed the score along following the fall of Neil Lenham to the third ball of the morning. Such a rate of progress was painful to behold.

Sussex had begun day three one down and 20 runs ahead. They added another 25 in the first hour, 20 in the second and only 68 in the opening session. When Athey and Wells were separated, the stand was worth 78 in 45 overs and when Wells signed off, he had made only 38 in a shade over three hours.

But 146 for four became 181 for six after Tom Moody had whistled out Peter Moores and Franklyn Stephenson in five balls.

That left Speight, backed up by Ian Salisbury, to repair the damage and this he did in a positive manner that made a mockery of the exhibition witnessed previously.

Speight had struck seven fours and a six when Stuart Lampitt, who claimed the last four wickets, denied him a second century of the summer with a full-length ball. Worcestershire, meanwhile, lost Tim Curtis to Stephenson. But with nine wickets in hand, they have a day in which to score a further 171 for that elusive first victory.