Cricket: Such wins advantage for Essex

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Lancashire 321 and 129-3

Essex 304-6 dec

PETER SUCH, exploiting a pitch that is taking turn, won Essex the advantage in a match that should see a result tomorrow. He took two wickets in his first four overs and might have had two more soon afterwards had the edges gone to hand.

This match between the champions and the team best equipped to replace them began as a carnival of errors on Thursday, lost Friday to the weather and resumed on a damp, cloudy morning in unchanged mood. There was nothing as dramatic as Neil Foster kicking over two stumps, but if Phillip DeFreitas could have found something to kick in the 14th over he would have felt much better.

Essex put down five catches, some said seven, on Thursday - hence Foster's outburst. When DeFreitas appeared after Lancashire's first change, he was cracked for three fours by the Essex nightwatchman Mike Garnham. One shot, a back-foot drive past extra cover, was high class.

Imagine DeFreitas's joy, then, when Garnham, on 33, went to pull a shortish ball that took a top edge and flew high towards midwicket. Gehan Mendis at mid-on went running across, got into position, saw the ball drop neatly into his hands - and out again. No one would swear to having seen steam leave DeFreitas's ears, but he did appear to be on the verge of taking off.

Graham Gooch, on 23 overnight, took more than two hours to reach his 50, acknowledging with slight tilts of his white helmet a valiant effort by young Peter Martin to dismiss him and one ball from DeFreitas that deserved to knock over all three stumps.

Lancashire's hopes rose when Alex Barnett began purveying left-arm spin from the Stretford End. The ball turned slowly but there was enough variation to make the batsmen pause, especially after Garnham had tried to pull a full toss from Barnett into the new stand and was leg before.

Six overs later, Barnett won an even greater prize when Gooch, more restricted than in his great Test innings here, was leg before to a ball that kept low. Salim Malik was not allowed to get into his stride before Mike Watkinson had him caught behind.

Nasser Hussain countered the threat of Watkinson with two fierce pulls and by early afternoon, as the sun tried to escape scudding cloud, a minor gale brought further complication. Wasim Akram returned, with the wind reinforcing his outswing, and had all the slips leaping in appeal for a catch behind from a Derek Pringle edge. The umpire Jack Bond was unmoved.

Hussain's promising innings was ended by a sly delivery from Barnett. It drew him forward, the ball turning enough to beat the bat and Warren Hegg swiftly completing the stumping. Paul Prichard, who injured a thumb while fielding, arrived with Essex still 100 in arrears and could add only 12 before he too was leg before.

Barnett's wickets were fair reward for some accurate bowling. He took wickets last season but was costly. This year, after some coaching from David Lloyd, he is bowling a better line but has not lost his zest for experiment, which means there invariably remains a 'four ball' every over.

DeFreitas's mood was not improved when Martin dropped Neil Foster on 19 at deep fine leg. Pringle's innings developed impressively; he was 65 not out at tea when Gooch declared 17 behind.

The evening brought sunshine and spin. Such immediately captured Mike Atherton as the opener swung to square leg and straight to England's captain. Three overs later Nick Speak drove at Such's arm ball and was taken at slip.