Such is life as Essex hit the title trail

Essex 465 Somerset 246 and 208 Essex won by inns and 11 runs
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The Independent Online
In A Tight race for the County Championship, the winner will have in-form batsmen, shrewd and accurate bowlers, and a lot of luck. All three were deployed by Essex when they beat Somerset by an innings and 11 runs at Taunton yesterday. If they go on like this, Leicestershire, Surrey, Yorkshire and Kent will have to wait another year for the elusive Championship pennant.

Luck came in the form of a turning wicket on which Peter Such mesmerised a line-up of batsmen who have never really learned to play spin. Such took six for 72 in 42.3 overs yesterday, taking the first when Marcus Trescothick misread the spin and was caught at first slip, and the last when Adrianus van Troost ignored the spin completely and was bowled first ball.

In Somerset's first innings Such had taken six for 63, giving him match figures of 12 for 135, the sixth time he has taken 10 wickets or more in an innings. Such and Graham Gooch - who scored of 201 for Essex - provided the inspiration for the county's fourth win in succession.

In the trade, cricketers regard Such as the best off-spinner in the English game in the same way they say that Phil Tufnell is by far the best left-armer - and probably the best spinner of the lot.

Neither gets selected for England, of course, because they are judged on the basis of character rather than skill. Such is a square-shouldered six-footer, aged 32, though that is no liability in a spinner; he cocks his wrist towards the end of a bouncy run and his captain puts five men round the bat.

There is plenty of appealing, but the impression is of a well-mannered cricketer. He is also a sensitive one, whose confidence was set back by Raymond Illingworth's judgement that he lacked the mental toughness required of a Test cricketer. You need look no further to understand why Illingworth is unpopular in Essex.

Somerset's opening pair of Mark Lathwell and Trescothick are such extravagant stroke players that they ought to be one of the most feared partnerships in the land, but they showed none of their promise yesterday. "Clothhead" shouted a man in the crowd when Trescothick was bemused by Such's sharp turn and gave Paul Prichard an easy catch at first slip. "No concentration" yelled another when Lathwell drove lazily and was caught by Gooch at short extra cover. Both wickets fell at 24.

The maxim that one wicket means two was nicely illustrated on 58 when Such had Peter Bowler caught at short leg and Paul Grayson bowled Richard Harden playing back, a trick he repeated with Keith Parsons when the score was 69.

Shane Lee hit Such boldly back over his head for six, but lost the battle with the spinner when he was caught off bat and pad on 39. A stubborn stand of 81 between Rob Turner and Graham Rose might have held Essex up till the close had not Rose turned for a second run when Mark Ilott had already picked up the ball on a short boundary. You could hear the frenzy in Turner's voice as he shouted at Rose to turn back, but his time had run out.

You could say that was luck. Essex would say that it was quality cricket. That is what they are playing now, and that is why they deserve to be favourites to win the Championship.