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September 5, 2012
Sussex 221 and 186 for 2 (Nash 106*, Goodwin 51* ) lead Somerset 134 (Panesar 3-15) by 273 runs
Andrew Strauss has retired and the debate about who will step into his England opener's job has suddenly become more pressing. Nick Compton and Varun Chopra, who have both passed 1,000 Championship runs in Division One, have their admirers. As for Chris Nash, whose unbeaten century left him 43 runs short of becoming the third England-qualified batsman to 1,000, he never merits a mention.
It will probably always be this way for Nash, no matter how much he waves his arms. In fact, it is perhaps something to do with the way he waves his arms. Les Lenham, Sussex's batting coach, might put it more technically, but after a couple of Lions appearances, England have lost interest. "It's always a dream," he said. "All you can do is score runs and put your name in the hat."
But Sussex spectators appreciate Nash's fighting spirit and his hundred against Somerset, from 157 balls, has left them strongly placed for victory as, to all intents and purposes, they chase runners-up spot in Division One. He had a few alarms as his hundred approached, stealing a tight run to mid-on to reach 99 and surviving Steve Kirby's direct hit and then was spared an lbw appeal before he drove Peter Trego down the ground.
Alongside him, Murray Goodwin assembled only his second Championship fifty of the season in his Hove farewell. He received a sitting-and-standing ovation as if Sussex members were confused about correct etiquette. They will doubtless get to their feet sometime today.
Sussex have lavished praise upon him, and he upon them, and that has just added to the feeling that, at 39, he is heading into retirement. But he wants none of it - he is looking for another county and as he is also viewed as a good team man he should get one last deal. He set off at a dash, with four boundaries in eight balls, his signature cut shot was warmed up by some short and wide stuff by Sajid Mahmood (his signature ball muttered one cynic) and he got the confidence to try to bat big one last time.
It was a gorgeous late summer's day at Hove, the sort that Britain had seemingly forgotten how to produce, and Nash and Goodwin, in an unbroken third-wicket stand of 139, topped up Sussex's first-innings lead of 87 rather like a few of the spectators are topping up their tans: pleasurably and methodically with a minimum amount of fuss. They led by 273 at the close. You could almost hear Somerset's ageing pace attack creaking.
They had collapsed dismally in the morning. At 68 for 1, Somerset were making sturdy, if unspectacular, progress towards Sussex's 221. Then they lost nine wickets for 66 in 24 overs. It is never good news for Somerset when Marcus Trescothick gets out, but this was overdoing the feeling of despair.
Trescothick, 20,000 first-class runs under his belt, fell lbw to Sussex's rangy Australian quick, Steve Magoffin, and Somerset lost three wickets for three runs in three overs, the weakest shot from James Hildreth who shovelled Monty Panesar to midwicket.
Peter Trego bats like a gambler. In fact, sometimes he bats like The Dice Man, the cult novel by Luke Rhinehart, which tells of a psychiatrist who begins making increasingly important life-and-death decisions based on the casting of dice. It all looks highly exciting and somewhat random. Trego took four boundaries in a row off Magoffin but then self-destructed, hooking James Anyon to deep backward square, where Nash took an athletic catch.
Magoffin's three wickets were matched by Lewis Hatchett, a young left-arm quick, and Panesar, whose three cheap wickets against the tail will have done him no harm as he gently reminds the England selectors that he is still around ahead of the selection next week of the Test squad for India.
When Steve Snell drove him to mid-off, Panesar lugubriously joined the celebrations as if he was not entirely sure he had been invited, like the hanger-on walking into the room at a student party. Well, not entirely like that because obviously he wasn't carrying a cheap four-pack of lager.
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