A first double century in the career of Luke Wells has put his side into a commanding position heading into the final day of the Championship game at the Oval.
Spending almost 9 hours at the crease, Wells conjured up a superb 208 to lead his side to 526 all out, a big first innings lead of 175, as the tired Surrey bowlers failed to hit their straps.
With Sussex starting the morning on 204-2, early wickets with the new ball were a must if we were going to get back into the game. However, that wasn’t to be, as Wells and Joyce picked up from where they left off last night, with the new ball not proving dangerous at all, apart from one very difficult chance at slip which Wilson couldn’t hang onto. Wells moved to 150, and it looked as if his captain would join him with 3 figures, but the man who always seems to break a partnership Gareth Batty, bowled the Irishman before hail brought an early end to the morning session. Sussex 300-3.
However, there was no rest bite for our bowlers, as Matt Prior was the next man in, and he took over the scoring, blasting a 36 ball 50, before being caught off Dernbach for an impressive 62. But by that time Sussex had gone past and well beyond our total, and Wells completed a superb double hundred.
The part time spin of Vikram Solanki was then turned to, and amazingly produced two quick wickets, as he bowled Wells and had Hamilton-Brown caught and bowled. Quite ridiculous really. The frontline bowlers have toiled away for so long, but that’s the way it goes sometimes, with it being the former Worcestershire batsman’s first wicket since against us in 2010. Sussex went to tea on 487-6, with a lead of 136, and the question on everyone’s lips was how long of the final session will they bat for?
Well, they batted for just under an hour and until they were eventually bowled out for 526. Linley picked up his 2nd and 3rd wickets when he bowled Ben Brown and Chris Jordan, before Batty had Anyon caught well on the boundary by Roy, and Tremlett had Panesar caught for his first wicket.
That left 17 overs for us to try and bat out at the end of the day, but it didn’t start well, as Burns nicked off in the 4th over for 7. However, Smith managed to find some form, ticking over at just under a run a ball and ending the day unbeaten on 43, with the score on 66-1, trailing by 109.
So that’s a disappointing day all things considered. Wickets with the new ball this morning were always going to be needed after seeing how good the pitch has been over the last 2 days, but they didn’t come, and Sussex took control. The bowlers worked hard but didn’t really create any openings, with Tremlett and Dernbach looking particularly ineffective. Batty and Linley were the pick of the bowlers, with the latter deserving more than the 3-82 against his name, but they weren’t supported by the others.
Tomorrow is going to be a hard slog for our batsman as, even though some rain may be about, Sussex will be confident they can wrap up 9 wickets in 3 sessions. However, Smith started to look good tonight, scoring at a quick rate, and I believe he will hold the key on whether we can eke out a draw. If he goes early, then it will become increasingly tough, but one positive the batsman can take is that the pitch doesn’t seem to have deteriorated, and looks rather comfortable to bat on. But, pressure has a funny effect on batsman, whatever the pitch is like.