Cricket: Such is life for the county champions: Runs flow from Hussain's bat and A team wickets tumble as cricket edges into a new season

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Essex 394; England A 137-8

THE county champions continued to make things awkward for the England committee by upstaging the A team here yesterday, a century by Nasser Hussain being followed by some lively bowling from Mark Ilott and crafty spin from John Childs and Peter Such. It may be that Graham Gooch is making the point that the likeliest England team to beat Australia is also known as Essex.

Gooch was relentless. He insisted on batting on after lunch, when Essex were 393 for 9, in the hope of further runs (Childs added one in three overs) and then had his bowlers pitch into England A as if considerable riches, not just prestige, were at stake. In fact, the Tetley Bitter Challenge winners receive pounds 1,500 with another pounds 500 for the man of the match.

Hussain leads individually at the moment for his 118, but his bowling colleagues are pressing. Ilott, free of injury and with Australian sun behind him, looked faster and extremely competitive: he removed Mike Roseberry first ball, caught at silly point off bat and pad, then tempted Mark Lathwell into a hard slash straight to square cover with a shorter ball. The two Essex spinners winkled out the middle order, Martyn Moxon having three escapes before being snatched up.

Lathwell took 18 overs to score 30, but it was an interesting innings; he is able to adjust at the last second and so continues developing as an improviser while learning from every knock. A wristy flick that deposited an attempted bouncer from Ilott over midwicket was the most dramatic shot of the day.

Once he and Moxon had departed, the A team resistance was rapidly undermined in intermittently poor light and windblown rain showers. Graham Thorpe hung on for 15 overs until he became the third victim of a spell by Such that brought three wickets for four runs in five overs.

So far in this match the England committee has learned that Gooch can be as awkward as ever, as batsman or captain, that Hussain, a forgotten England batsman last summer, is a candidate again and that Ilott and Such are prime candidates for any rebuilt Test attack.

Of the A team, Caddick is emerging as genuine material, Salisbury remains capable of running through a side, Lathwell has to build a few big innings, while John Crawley needs to bat higher than No 6.

Medlycott makes mark,

(Photograph omitted)