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September 4, 2012
Somerset 30 for 1 trail Sussex 221 (Joyce 65, Rehman 3-30, Thomas 3-49) by 191 runs
Even for the modern cricketer, two matches on different continents within barely 12 hours is pushing it a bit, but Abdur Rehman pulled it off it somehow. Two wickets for Pakistan in a floodlit ODI against Australia in Dubai and, a long-haul flight later, three more wickets for Somerset at Hove. He was probably content to get his loosener on the cut bit. It was a wonder he was not so disorientated that he bowled it against the sightscreen.
Life was certainly of a slower pace when Les Lenham, who is still Sussex's part-time batting coach at a sprightly 76, began an association with the county in 1952. He was summoned to Hove in August of that year, small kit bag in hand, in expectation of a game and instead spent the day selling scorecards, working the scorecard and picking up banana skins.
But even as he watched Rehman demolish Sussex's lower order, Lenham's thoughts did not dwell on the lifestyle of the itinerant cricketer as much as something more substantial. He was on hand to watch Murray Goodwin's farewell to Hove and stuck to his remarks at a knees-up to mark his 60 years with the county by reasserting that he had seen no finer Sussex cricketer in his lifetime. As the list includes Ted Dexter, it is quite a compliment, one to fit alongside his 24,000 runs and 48 hundreds for Sussex in all formats.
"I was asked who I thought had been the best Sussex batsman I had seen and I looked at Murray and said the question was not too difficult," Lenham said. "He has an amazing flair for the game, great hand-eye co-ordination and amazing powers of concentration. His cover drive is a joy to watch and he must be one of the finest square cutters the game has ever seen. He watches the ball longer than most, too; it's a gift to stand still and wait."
But better than Dexter? Such an accolade is not easily made in Sussex where he lorded it over so many bowling attacks in his heyday in the early sixties. "Ted played many outstanding innings, but he wasn't always bothered with the grafting. When the chips were down I would always back Murray ahead of Ted. Ted was one of the most exciting players the world has ever seen, but what has made Murray great has been his ability to assess the situation."
Now he has assessed the situation and decided, at 39, age has caught up with him. He has not added to those centuries this summer and, in first-class cricket, barely averages more than double figures. His Test career - only 19 Tests for Zimbabwe - is a thing of distant memory.
He was given a sitting ovation today - these Hove deckchairs take some getting out of when your sprightliest years are behind you - and a more sympathetic ripple when he returned to the pavilion with 16 more runs to his name, edging Sajid Mahmood to second slip where Marcus Trescothick held one of his five catches.
A glide to third man off Alfonso Thomas possessed the touch of earlier seasons, but it was Thomas' day which took a turn for the better as he removed Matt Prior, Ed Joyce and Ben Brown within the space of three overs shortly before tea. Joyce had been Sussex's bedrock, committing four-and-a-quarter hours to a disciplined 65 which ended when he edged to the wicketkeeper. He had also skied a pull to mid-on on 47 but Peter Trego had overstepped.
Somerset named 12 and fielded 11, under the ECB regulation that allows international players to have an active substitute until they arrive. Jack Leach, Rehman's substitute, even got an over of slow left-arm in before lunch, but Rehman walked onto the field around 2pm and had a preamble about half-an-hour later.
He was in his 16th over when he took his first wicket, Mike Yardy providing Trescothick with another victim. James Anyon fell in identical fashion in his next over and, in the one that followed, Sussex's innings came to an end when Lewis Hatchett was bowled for nought.
Lenham had witnessed many better Sussex batting days. Goodwin will take some replacing, but his tutor thinks he is retiring at the right time. "By the time I started coaching him, there wasn't a lot to do," he said. "The art of coaching is sometimes to say 'well done, great shot and this is why it was a great shot.' I didn't have to tighten up a method like Murray's. But he has had a bad season and there comes a time when the days in the field feel longer and you are not moving or timing the ball quite so well. You've got to realise there comes a day."
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