Sussex 142 all out (Wells 79*, Gregory 5-49, Overton 2-35, Thomas 2-42, Trego 1-10) and following on 1162-6 (Joyce 76*, Thomas 2-27, Gregory 2-29).
Sussex 3pts, Somerset 6pts.
by Jeremy Blackmore
Somerset utterly dominated the third day of this county championship clash with league leaders Sussex, taking 15 wickets to stand on the brink of a comprehensive victory against the side that humbled them last season.
In a complete reversal of last year’s corresponding fixture at Horsham, Somerset dismissed Sussex cheaply mid-afternoon for just 142, before Trescothick enforced the follow on. Somerset then took a further six wickets before the close to leave the home side on the ropes on 162-6, still needing 68 runs to make the visitors bat again.
Fresh from his 47 with the bat last night, Lewis Gregory picked up the second fivefer of his career to rip the heart out of Sussex’s middle order. Then in the final session, he took two key wickets when Sussex batted again to head off any hopes the home side might have had of saving this match tomorrow.
Somerset made the most of excellent conditions for bowling. This pitch has become increasingly two-paced, causing real problems for the batsmen. Several balls kept very low today, while others leapt off a length – one over the wicket-keeper’s head for four byes.
But the truth is Somerset’s batsmen batted a lot better on this wicket than their counterparts. Several Sussex batsmen were out to loose strokes, when they should have been more concerned with occupying the crease.
Only Luke Wells, who carried his bat for an excellent 79* off 168 balls in Sussex’s first innings and skipper Ed Joyce, who remains there stubbornly on 76* in their second, showed the resilience needed to bat on this surface.
Facing some testing, sometimes hostile bowling from Somerset’s four-man seam attack, Sussex’s inexperienced middle order, missing the injured Prior and Wright, had no answer, other than to play poor shots at the wrong times.
Sussex had resumed this morning on 25-1 off 11 overs, but within the first 40 minutes or so, they lost three quick wickets and never recovered.
Yardy was bowled by Thomas for 10, before Gregory trapped Hamilton-Brown lbw without scoring and then had Machan caught behind for 10 and Sussex were 53-4.
The man taking that catch behind the stumps was Marcus Trescothick, pressed into service when Craig Kieswetter came down with a stomach bug overnight. An SOS call was sent to Alex Barrow back in Taunton, Tres donning the gloves while Alex made his way down the motorway.
Gregory then knocked Ben Brown’s off and leg stump clean out of the ground (somehow his middle stump remained intact) and Sussex were 61-5, still 311 behind. Gregory’s figures were an impressive 3-37 at that stage.
Overton was keen to get into the action, almost running out Wells with a direct throw from the deep and then hitting the batsman on the body when he came into the attack to replace Thomas.
Overton got his first wicket when Zaidi was adjudged to have got an edge on a ball which was taken behind the stumps by Trescothick. The Sussex spinner was not happy and made this clear by staying on the field a little longer than he should have and promptly tweeting his displeasure on returning to the pavilion. To his credit he quickly and sensibly deleted the offending tweet, but cricketers have received fines for similar misdemeanours in the past.
Wells who had been single-handedly holding the Sussex innings together reached a well-earned 50 off 108 balls just before lunch. Wells finally found some support from Chris Jordan who kept him company for 50 minutes, giving the home-side some much-needed respite as they went into lunch on 98-6.
Somerset came out after lunch determined not to let the pressure up and Trego in particular gave Wells a real examination, beating him on a two or three occasions in his first over of the afternoon as well as squaring him up off another delivery.
The Wells-Jordan partnership was broken thanks to a stunning one-handed catch by sub Tom Abel, who dived full stretch, goalkeeper style, to hang onto one from Jordan off Gregory and Sussex were 99-7.
Sussex managed to stagger past the 100 mark before Gregory knocked over Jimmy Anyon’s stumps to pick up his fifth wicket and Sussex were 101-8, still 271 runs behind
Somerset kept applying the pressure and just five runs later, Wells almost played onto Gregory before Magoffin got one from Overton which kept low and was plumb lbw for 1, earning Somerset maximum bowling points.
The ball that dismissed Magoffin was one of several balls that kept that low, Wells having to stab his bat down shortly afterwards to keep out a similar delivery from Overton.
Tres regularly rotated his four-man attack well, keeping his men fresh, conscious that the follow-on was imminent and that another effort would be needed.
In those circumstances, the 36-run last-wicket partnership off exactly 10 overs – the highest of the whole Sussex innings – was extremely frustrating for the cidermen. Finally Pete Trego ended proceedings by knocking over Jon Lewis’s stumps and Sussex were all out for 142 off 55 overs, some 230 runs behind Somerset’s first innings 372.
If Somerset were to win this match, it was vital that they enforced the follow on and Sussex’s openers were soon facing the new ball with immediate signs that uneven bounce was going to remain a key feature; Gregory getting one to lift suddenly on Joyce and go for four leg byes.
Early in Sussex second innings, Alex Barrow completed his 157-mile journey from Taunton and Tres very happily (we imagine) handed over wicket-keeping duties.
Wells was unable to repeat his heroics of the first innings, falling with a few overs to go until tea to a catch by Nick Compton at midwicket off the bowling of Trego, to leave Sussex 188 runs behind on 42-1.
There was more inconsistent bounce in evidence just before tea as Trego got one to lift on Yardy and then Overton got one to go through to Joyce very low just outside off. Had it been straighter, it would have caused the batsman real problems. Sussex went into tea on 62-1, happy not to have lost another wicket, with Joyce 26* and Yardy 3* and still 168 runs behind.
Yardy, though, did not last much longer after tea, clean bowled by yet another one which kept low, this time from Thomas for 11 – 75-2, 155 behind.
After almost running out his captain, Hamilton-Brown then played a wide ball outside off from Thomas to Compton at cover. Nick took a stunning catch, jumping to take the ball one handed above his head. Sussex were now 83-3, 147 behind, with surely only Ed Joyce standing in our way.
Machan survived a dropped catch and had put on 22 with Joyce before Tres moved Chris Jones to field at square leg. The next ball, Machan obligingly top-edged a ball from Gregory directly to Jonesy and Sussex were 105-4. Excellent bit of captaincy from Trescothick, good bowling to a plan by Gregory, poor thinking from the batsman.
Gregory then did Ben Brown for pace, knocking the batsman’s off-stump out of the ground, bowling him for the second time in the same day. The ball kept low, but not excessively so, like some we saw today. That was Lewis’ seventh wicket of the match and followed his career best eight in the game against Durham last week. Sussex 113-5.
Barrow then made sure that his 160-mile drive down the motorway network this morning was worth it, by taking a brilliant one-handed diving catch off Overton to dismiss Zaidi, out playing a poor shot for 18.
With a day of this match still to go and decent weather in prospect, Tres made the sensible decision not to ask for the extra half hour tonight and Sussex closed on 162-6. In truth they had only Ed Joyce to thank for not suffering a defeat this evening, after just two days and one session.
No-one will forget that it’s only been 12 months since Somerset were in a similar position, being bowled out for 76 and 108 as Sussex won by an innings in two days at Horsham.
Barring a couple of big lower-order partnerships from Sussex, Somerset should hopefully avenge that defeat sometime tomorrow morning.
But more to the point, a win would be worthy of a fantastic all-round team effort over the past couple of days by Somerset: a performance that promises much for the season ahead.
Dave Nosworthy the Somerset Director of Cricket told the Somerset website this evening: “We have had a good day and everybody has worked really hard. The bowlers have toiled hard and there will be a few stiff and sore bodies in the morning, but we still have some work to be done.”
Talking about the follow on, Nos said:” We were aware of how many overs we had bowled and we didn’t want to give our opposition any chance of a sniff of the game and bowling them out in just 55 overs we still had enough mileage in our legs to put them under some pressure and we were able to do that.
“Its important now that we put today’s efforts behind us because I’m sure they will come back fighting so tomorrow morning is going to be a big session.
“It was a good effort from the whole bowling group and everybody contributed in different ways. Lewis took five wickets and shone and has done a hell of a job, but so have Tommo, Jamie Overton and Tregs in their own way. Tregs only got one wicket but his 8 overs only cost 10 runs and built pressure for the other guys.”
Regarding Craig Kieswetter the Director of Cricket said: “He is struggling with a stomach bug at the moment. He saw the doctor and has some medication and we will see how he is in the morning, but if he is not feeling well then Alex Barrow, who took a brilliant catch today, will continue.”
BBC Somerset’s Stephen Lamb told the BBC Sport website:
“Overcast conditions on the third morning were exploited to such effect by the Somerset seamers that the Championship leaders were forced to follow on 230 runs behind.
“And by stumps at Hove the hosts were facing their first defeat of the summer.
“All-rounder Lewis Gregory, still only 21, shone for Somerset, whose bowlers were helped by occasional uneven bounce, while Sussex’s batsmen, Luke Wells and Ed Joyce aside, offered largely easy pickings.
“Marcus Trescothick added two catches behind the stumps to his first innings century, as he deputised for an ailing Craig Kieswetter before Alex Barrow, plucked at short notice from the second XI, arrived as a replacement.”