WITH JUST one Lord's victory in 31 seasons, Essex's record in the 60-over fray is not what it should be. Victims of the most grievous mugging ever witnessed in a NatWest final last September, Sussex went some way towards recovering their losses yesterday by pickpocketing the visitors with a bowling display that should reap its reward today.
After Alan Wells had elected to field following a delayed start, contrasting half- centuries from John Stephenson and Graham Gooch promised an insurmountable total on a typically helpful Hove pitch, only for Essex to flounder in the face of some nagging seam and spin during the second half of a stop-start innings that ultimately ended a good 30 runs under par.
Of late Lady Luck has not exactly been over-generous to Stephenson. A winter coaching post in New Zealand was cancelled at the 11th hour; shoulder problems necessitated a pre-season operation, whereupon Mick Kasprowicz broke the opener's right thumb during net practice.
In the last over before lunch here, a delivery from Ed Giddins struck the same digit, prompting Stephenson to gobble down a medicine cabinet's worth of anti-inflammatory tablets. This in turn induced a migraine and forced him to retire four overs after the resumption.
Not that this affected the Essex momentum. Emulating his partner's predilection for the sweep, Nasser Hussain kept pace with Gooch, the three-cornered opening stand raising 176 in 42 overs before Sussex finally made an incision, Gooch caught behind dabbing at Franklyn Stephenson. The Essex captain's 86 off 102 balls swelled his competition record aggregate to 2,373 runs at a shade under 54.
Back came John Stephenson but Hussain departed three overs later, caught behind checking a sweep off the accurate Ian Salisbury.
Heavy drizzle caused further hiatus, this time of two hours, and when hostilities eventually resumed in indifferent light, Peter Moores soared high to his left to intercept an edge from Knight. Stephenson went for good in the following over, flailing over a high full-toss from Giddins. Whether Essex can see their way out of this one remains to be seen.Reuse content