Wells gives Sussex upper hand
Stumps Sussex 194 and 237 for 4 (Wells 74*, Thorp 2-24) v Durham 292 (Muchall 74, Panesar 4-88) and 210 (Blackwell 51, Naved-ul-Hasan 4-43)
An unbeaten 74 from 20-year-old Luke Wells in only his third County Championship match took Sussex to within sight of an unlikely victory against Durham at Chester-le-Street today. Needing 309 to win, Sussex closed on 237 for 4 with another youngster, Ben Brown, contributing 39 to an unbroken stand of 88.
Wells, the son of former Sussex captain Alan Wells, bettered the 62 he made on his debut against Worcestershire at the end of last season. He had failed to impress in a limp first-innings display by the visitors, but made a more confident start this time and was prepared to go down the pitch to the spinners.
He became more circumspect when acting captain Murray Goodwin was the fourth man out for 36, though, and needed 149 balls to reach 50. Durham, for their part, struggled to come to terms with the pitch. Having batted in their second innings as though they did not trust it, they could extract no life from a docile surface.
After the fall of 14 wickets on the second day, Durham began the third with a lead of 166 but lost their remaining five wickets in the first hour for the addition of only 44 runs. They succumbed to a mixture of rash strokes and good bowling from Rana Naved-ul-Hasan and Monty Panesar.
Wicketkeeper Michael Richardson shuffled across and was lbw to the first ball of the day before Scott Borthwick handed Rana his second wicket of the morning by pulling a catch straight to mid-on. Callum Thorp made 19 before a slower ball from Rana ducked in late to bowl him.
Dale Benkenstein, on 38 overnight, completed his fifty off 65 balls but was bowled by the next ball when he went down the track to Panesar looking to hit him over mid-on. The left-arm spinner then bowled Mitch Claydon as Durham were all out for 210.
Sussex openers Ed Joyce and Chris Nash put on 58 with relative comfort until Ian Blackwell made the breakthrough when he had Joyce well caught at silly mid-off by Gordon Muchall. Nash and Wells added 40 before Thorp revived Durham with two wickets in two balls.
Nash went for 45 when he played back defensively and the ball ran down his bat into the stumps, then Joe Gatting edged to Muchall at slip. When Muchall also caught Goodwin it was his fifth catch of the match, but he missed the one sharp chance offered by Wells on 49.
With Steve Harmison and Liam Plunkett injured, Durham were also left to rue resting Graham Onions after his excellent comeback at Headingley last week as Wells edged Sussex closer to victory.