Such stakes a claim

CRICKET Essex 662-7 dec Hampshire 255 & 150-9
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The Independent Online
THE PERIPATETIC Peter Such, who counts Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire among his previous counties, is enjoying one of his finest seasons, having already passed the 50-wicket mark for the third time in his career. His name is sure to come up in today's England selectors' meeting after he recorded career-best figures of eight for 93 in a long spell of accurate, probing off-spin yesterday.

Occasionally, cricket matches are so one-sided as to be rendered virtually meaningless, and when Mark Nicholas, the Hampshire captain, lost the toss, Essex ran up the highest innings total of the season to set Hampshire the improbable target of 513 to avoid the follow-on.

This would not have been so bad had the pitch retained its passive character, but such is Castle Park's reputation for taking turn that Such and John Childs were licking their spinning fingers in anticipation long before Essex's innings was over.

Such and Childs were in tandem after the briefest of interludes from Mark Ilott, and while neither can claim to be the biggest spinner of the ball, conditions were perfect for their combination of accuracy, application and exploitation of the footholds.

Nicholas was Such's first victim, falling to a bat-pad catch at silly point. John Stephenson played aggressively, spurred on by the target of scoring a century against the county he left last year to further his captaincy ambitions. He became becalmed in the 90s, and was desperately disappointed to be bowled by Such while attempting a big hit over mid- wicket.

After that, the two spinners ground Hampshire into submission, with only Kevan James proving he had the technique to cope with the turning ball. Adrian Aymes provided Childs with a low return catch, while Shaun Udal and Cardigan Conner fell to fine, diving catches at forward short leg by Darren Robinson.

Such wrapped up the innings, and Hampshire followed-on in mid-afternoon a mere 407 runs behind. They got off to a terrible start when Paul Terry attempted a rash cut and was bowled by Ronnie Irani. Essex's flirtation with seam was brief, after a flurry of fours from Stephenson, and Such struck in his second over, having Jason Laney caught at slip.

When Paul Whitaker succumbed, playing a horrendous reverse sweep, it was left once again to Stephenson and Nicholas to steady a tottering innings. They attacked gamely. Nicholas hit Childs for two sixes over long on, and Stephenson reached his second 50 of the match, which contained a remarkable 12 fours. But when they were out, the innings disintegrated as before. The turn became even more pronounced, Essex claimed the extra half-hour, and Childs finished a fine day with six for 36.