|Ground:||County Ground, Taunton|
|Scorecard:||Somerset v Sussex|
|Player:||MW Machan, JC Hildreth, PD Trego, SJ Magoffin, EC Joyce|
|Event:||LV County Championship 2015|
SOMERSET v SUSSEX
Somerset had the edge over Sussex on the first two days of their match at Taunton. On the third day, Sussex burst through, eliminated the home sides advantage and established a fine position for themselves, finishing the day 245 runs ahead with only two wickets down. Part of this was Somersets own fault, but in the positive side a superb century from Matt Machan was the main factor in the Sussex revival, and he was backed by the fine batting of Ed Joyce and Chris Nash.
Sussex resumed at their overnight score of 176 for four wickets, with James Hildreth on 63 and Peter Trego 71. With this pair well entrenched, Somerset were certainly hoping for a more sizable lead than they eventually got, as they failed to make full use of their advantage. The batsmen showed enterprise from the start, keeping the scoreboard ticking over, but the turning point came when Ollie Robinson produced a fast yorker that knocked out Tregos leg stump. He had made a fine 81 off 114 balls, with ten fours and a six. The partnership had added 163 and the score was now 199 for five.
This was the breakthrough Sussex needed, and they seized upon it. Luke Gregory, not currently in good batting form, edged a ball from Steve Magoffin to the slips before he had scored, and the very next ball Michael Bates also fell to s slip catch, the most common form of dismissal in this match to date. Somerset suddenly found themselves at 200 for seven.
Craig Overton lunged at the hat-trick ball and a half-hearted lbw appeal was rejected. He then did what he does so well, attacking the bowling. He survived a difficult low chance at mid-off when on 1, but then hammered Robinson for a straight six and a four off successive balls. Soon afterwards, though, Hildreth (82) fell, like so many others caught in the slips, Robinson again being the bowler. He faced 136 balls and, like Trego, hit 10 fours and a six; 232 for eight.
Then came the strange sight of an Australian paceman, Magoffin, bowling to Overton with virtually all his fielders on the boundary. It did little good, however, when the batsman drove him over the man at long-on for another six. Abdur Rehman for a while batsmen usefully before being superbly caught by Luke Wells at backward point, off Matt Hobden, for 11; 259 for nine.
With the last man (despite having a first-class century to his credit) Alfonso Thomas at the crease, Overton reached a fine fifty off 44 balls. The Sussex bowlers had soon found that the best way to stop him from driving them for boundaries was to bowl the ball at head-height, and Hobden produced a bouncer that hit him a stunning blow on the side of the helmet. He spent a few minutes recovering and getting a new helmet, but was unable to get going again before Thomas irresponsibly leapt down the pitch to Wells and was easily stumped for 4.
The innings closed for 274, a lead of 66. Overton scored 53 not out from 44 balls, with five fours and two sixes, an innings that especially delighted the children at the ground for Schools Day. Robinson finished with four wickets and Magoffin with three, though neither looked impressive when Overton carried the attack to them.
Sussex had some ground to make up. Their left-handed opening pair of Ed Joyce, crouching at the crease, and Wells moved safely to 28 before Wells, with 9, followed so many others in edging to the slips, Thomas being the bowler. Matt Machan now joined Joyce, and the two dug in with the determination that some of the Somerset batsmen had been lacking during the morning. The Somerset bowlers lost their spark and tended to bowl too short.
Joyce, hitting Overton for four fours in six balls, went to his fifty off 75 balls, but then seemed to run out of gas. Machans fifty took him 64 balls, and on 54 overtook his captain. The pair added 122 before Joyce miscued a pull off Trego and was caught for 66 off 100 balls; 150 for two. Machan and Chris Nash continued the brisk progress and team found the score 187 for two, with the batsmen respectively on 86 and 14.
Machan continued on to complete a fine century off only 113 balls, an impressive and authoritative innings that was by now putting Sussex on more than even terms. It was all the more impressive for coming after a run of low scores. Nash ran quickly to his fifty off 58 balls, and the Somerset bowlers could not keep control. Sussex finished this day looking in complete control of the match, with 311 runs on the board for only two wickets, with Machan on 137, the highest first-class score of his career, and Nash on 76, the partnership worth 161 and counting. It all depends whether they can use their advantage tomorrow better than Somerset did.
(Article: Copyright © 2015 John Ward)