Wells digs deep to spur Sussex

CRICKETHenry Blofeldreports from hoveSussex 323; Kent 18-0
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The Independent Online
An exceptional innings of 107 by Alan Wells dominated even the glorious weather at the County Ground and saved Sussex, after they had looked like wasting the important advantage of winning the toss. It was his first Championship century since 1993.

Wells came in during the 29th over when Sussex were 70 for 2 after a somewhat laboured start, with Bill Athey in one of his more introspective moods. The bowling had been steady rather than dangerous, although Dean Headley had moved the ball away from the bat and might have taken more than one wicket.

On an easy-paced pitch, Wells watched carefully as Min Patel dropped at once on to a length from the top end. Two well-timed sweeps brought him fours to square leg, and then after lunch he began to use his feet to attack the left-arm spinner.

He straight-drove him for six and then with quick and sure footwork, took two paces down the pitch and drove him through extra cover. Sadly, Patel's answer to this was distinctly defensive, for he now began to bowl over the wicket, aiming the ball at Wells' pads.

This is a depressingly negative tactic, and one would have hoped that a bowler of Patel's potential would have been pleased to see Wells using his feet and would have continued to bowl round the wicket, backing himself to beat the batsman in the flight.

Although this slowed Wells up, he still managed to come down the pitch, while stepping away to leg to make room to play the stroke and drive Patel over mid-off. When Mark Benson returned to his seamers, Wells continued to play with the same authority.

At 163, after batting 57 overs for 56, Athey was beaten by Tim Wren's left-arm over angle of delivery and bowled. In quick succession, Keith Greenfield played inside Matthew Fleming and was bowled, while Peter Moores was lbw on the front foot to Headley. But Wells was not distracted, and went on playing his strokes as he had done throughout his innings.

His 100 arrived in the first over after tea, and had come from 151 balls with 13 fours and one six. Shortly afterwards, he made his first and only mistake when he played Wren off his pads straight into the hands of square leg.

Sussex were then taken past 300 by Franklyn Stephenson, who played like a man who has vowed to take his batting more seriously this season, and Jason Lewry, who also played some good firm strokes.