Rapid-fire Gooch spoils Wasim's day

Cricket: Essex 238 and 113-1 Warwickshire 253
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Wasim Khan, together with his Essex adversary Graham Gooch, ensured this tight match turned several more unexpected somersaults amid a quickening tempo. Warwickshire, once 65 for 5, even achieved a 15 run lead under Wasim's guidance before the game developed into a winner-take-all one- innings contest.

After totalling a mere 150 Championship runs in the first half of the summer, Wasim has made two hundreds in the past month. His latest amounted to almost half of Warwickshire's total before the balance tipped again as Gooch and Paul Grayson responded with an opening partnership of 77 in 16 overs. Gooch's own half-century was from 77 balls.

These twists and turns did little to clarify fifth-placed Essex's title-winning prospects, though their dropping of six catches, of varying degrees of difficulty, must be a concern. Gooch put down Trevor Penney at second slip while other culprits included Grayson and Neil Williams.

Wasim's century was his third in the Championship, his second against Durham in August having ended a year-long wait after scoring 181 against Hampshire at Southampton.

After the first-day batting struggles and more on the second morning, the pitch became flatter, though Peter Such turned the odd ball disconcertingly. It illustrated why Warwickshire had opted for two spinners, Ashley Giles and Neil Smith. All their guile will be needed today to halt the Essex charge, which contracted the game's previous pattern of collapse and recovery. Just as Warwickshire lost five first innings wickets cheaply, so had Essex.

Wasim, at 25, remains a player of promise rather than fulfilment, though he treated the Essex attack with relish. His first half-century occupied 135 balls, his second only 90 despite the crisis around him. In all he faced 264 balls, hitting 16 fours and a six before being last out.

Penney and Dougie Brown helped resuscitate Warwickshire by sharing half- century partnerships with Wasim, though Ashley Cowan confirmed the promise he has shown this summer by dismissing all three.

Essex, fast scorers during their best Championship years, used the formula again, even with two days remaining. Gladstone Small's first-ball wide ushered in fluent strokeplay, though Gooch was dropped on 22 and 38 by Dominic Ostler and Tim Munton, adding further missed chances to the game's cauldron of uncertainty. If it boils down to who dares wins, it will probably be Essex.

David Leatherdale (122) and Steve Rhodes (110) carried Worcestershire to 413 for 9 declared against Sussex at New Road. Sussex reduced the lead of 198 by 21 at close.

Leatherdale made his first century in two years and Rhodes' 100 was his first in the championship for three seasons. After James Kirtley and Ian Salisbury had taken three wickets in five balls, the two Yorkshiremen put on 219 in nearly four hours.

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