Cricket: Wily Hemmings enjoys a whale of a time

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The Independent Online
Sussex. . . . . . . . .271

Leicestershire. . . . .97 and 72

Sussex win by innings and 102 runs

A ONCE-A-YEAR county wicket, prepared by the local groundsman, served up the sort of pitch Keith Fletcher has been pleading for ever since England began producing unpalatable batting displays on the Indian subcontinent in January. Just as Fletcher had argued, it led to fielders crouching around the bat as an English-qualified spinner wheeled in, using the rough and varying flight and pace to take 11 wickets in under four hours.

Only the man feasting yesterday as Sussex swept aside Leicestershire inside two days was not some aspiring England hopeful, but a 44-year-old perspiring former international. With a demonstration of spin bowling as artful as the visitors' batting was artless, Eddie Hemmings took match figures of 12 for 58.

Dismissed for 97 in their first innings, Leicestershire fared even worse in the second with only a last-wicket stand of 32 enabling them to equal the previous lowest total of the season, the 72 made by Lancashire at Taunton eight days earlier.

Having resumed at 57 for 3 in their first innings, Leicestershire lost their remaining seven wickets for 40 runs shortly after midday, and, following on, were rolled over in two hours and twenty minutes, being all out 40 minutes before tea.

Hemmings, bowling into the rough created by the Leicestershire left-armer Alan Mullally, took 5 for 27 in the first innings and 7 for 31 in the second.

The 'Whale', as Hemmings is known, turned down an offer from Leicestershire to join Sussex from Nottinghamshire this winter; he is evidently prospering on the south coast, this haul taking him to 21 Championship wickets in five innings. Bowling despite suffering from fluid on his sore right knee, he said: 'It was a good cricket wicket, as good as we'll see all year. It was very dry, turned and had pace.'

The wicket was tricky but not as difficult as Leicestershire made it look. They batted as if convinced the wicket was a spiteful, raging turner, rather than one that would reward good batting as much as good bowling.

The Leicestershire coach, Jack Birkenshaw, recognised that his team were to blame. 'It was a nightmare day,' he said.

'I've no complaints about the wicket. We batted badly. Following on, with people clustered around the wicket, we needed to hit Hemmings over the top, but at 17 for 3 it is difficult.'

In the morning, only Laurie Potter held firm as Hemmings and an impressive Franklyn Stephenson ran though his side.

Potter did not bother taking off his pads, opening the innings as Leicestershire batted again, but after seeing Nigel Briers and Tim Boon fall to the openers, Stephenson and Giddins, Potter became Hemmings' first victim in his third over.

By now the lemming mentality was firmly fixed in the visitors' minds and, while Hemmings managed to drift a sweet arm-ball to have Ben Smith caught behind and Phil Robinson got a brutish delivery from Giddins, the batting symbolised a procession to the cliff edge.

Had it not been for Mullally's late assault (he took 18 off four balls from Hemmings) they would not have passed the previous lowest score on this ground: 51, made by Leicestershire in 1924.

The two sides will go into their respective Benson and Hedges Cup quarter-finals on Tuesday in differing moods, although Sussex's joy was tempered by the news that their seamer, Adrian Jones, will be in hospital until Tuesday for observation after suffering muscle spasms in his neck.