Essex in control as Gooch overtakes WG Grace

Cricket: Essex 238 and 450-6 dec; Warwickshire 253 and 65-3
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The Independent Online
Graham Gooch strode further down the hall of fame as Essex imposed themselves on a beleaguered Warwickshire attack. Though allowing some turn, a flat pitch conspired with batsmen, allowing Gooch and Paul Prichard to gorge themselves with centuries.

Warwickshire, challenged to make 436 for victory, lost three wickets in a six-ball spell in pursuit of a total probably beyond their reach after Gooch had scored his 127th first-class hundred. He moved ahead of WG Grace's total to become ninth on the all-time list. This was his 967th innings, 526 fewer than Grace. Gooch, who will play on next summer, had already overtaken Tom Graveney, with 122 hundreds, and Denis Compton, with 123, in a season bringing him seven centuries.

Prichard, the captain and beneficiary, also rejoiced with his first century of the summer, though he inadvertently contributed to Gooch's dismissal. He straight-drove Dougie Brown, who deflected the ball into the non-striker's stumps to run out Gooch. The former England captain said he could not recall being dismissed in such a way.

It seemed the only likely means for him to retrace his steps, such was his command. Still, he was dropped three times - at 22, 38 and 118 - by Dominic Ostler, twice, and Tim Munton.

Gooch batted for almost four and a half hours, faced 234 balls, and hit 18 fours and two sixes, entertaining himself and the crowd to an occasional reverse sweep. This was his first hundred at the ground for 19 years, with his previous Championship return against Warwickshire being 596 runs in 21 innings.

Prichard's hundred was from 199 balls, with 10 fours and a six. Ronnie Irani made a half-century from 61 balls. Only the inevitable declaration deprived Irani of a hundred, though Prichard erred on the side of caution.

Ashley Giles, the slow left-arm, battled away before the opener Nick Knight struck several blows for freedom from the Essex constraint. Andy Moles was caught at short leg, and two balls later Wasim Khan, the first innings century- maker, was leg before. Peter Such promptly exploited Knight offering no stroke in his first over, and Warwickshire's worst fears had been realised.

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