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Alex Winter at The Oval
April 26, 2013
Surrey 351 and 66 for 1 (Smith 43*) trail Sussex 526 (Wells 208, Joyce 98) by 109 runs
Sussex haven't won at The Oval since 1994 but have a chance to break that run after building up a good lead and asking Surrey to bat out the final day for a draw.
Graeme Smith, Surrey's captain, led an excellent riposte as his side faced 17 overs before the close with an unbeaten 43 in 46 balls. He will be relieved after failing in his first two innings for his new club but will know tomorrow's biggest challenge may well be against Monty Panesar on a wearing wicket.
Panesar may be the only hope for a positive result on a surface that appears to be getting slower and lower. Sussex would have liked more than their solitary success by the close, Steve Magoffin swinging a full ball into Rory Burns who drove and edged behind, but the reality is the wicket is not competitive enough.
Panesar's initial burst on the third evening did not suggest he can win the match on day four. Smith biffed his first over for 14, putting a full toss past mid-off, a half-volley past mid-on and a short ball through square leg. Smith has already negated a much-vaunted English spinner on this ground in the past 12 months - Graeme Swann finding no joy in the Test match last July - and Smith will undoubtedly seek to unsettle Panesar tomorrow en route to a morale-boosting draw.
His side have been on the back foot for the past two days, having failed to take advantage of being 247 for 3 in their first innings. They crumbled to the second new ball, whereas Sussex thrived against it on the third morning and picked up the scoring rate.
Luke Wells predicted a fresh ball would be easier to score against and so it proved as he and Ed Joyce extended their partnership to exactly 200 before Joyce, like he did in the season opener at Headingley, failed to move through the 90s and was bowled by a Gareth Batty slider. It was the high point in Batty's day. He recorded an undesirable career record, with the most expensive innings figures he has sent down in the Championship.
Matt Prior played around with him in a typically jaunty half-century in 36 balls. Batty tossed it up just outside off stump and went over extra-cover; he bowled straighter and went past fine leg; he bowled flatter and went past backward point. Prior was a breath of fresh air that broke up what was an uninspiring day as the contest between bat and ball that thrived on the second afternoon was totally lost.
Luke Well was the beneficiary, going through to a career-best 208. The way he plays suggests that he is not one to waste opportunities. He took full advantage to become only the fourth Sussex batsman, after CB Fry, Murray Goodwin and Ranjitsinhji to make a double century against Surrey. It was also the highest individual score by anyone in a first-class match involving these two teams and the first Sussex double-hundred at The Oval since 1903.
His century was completed off Vikram Solanki on Thursday and it was the same bowler that allowed Wells to flick to deep point to bring up his double hundred as he emulated his father, Alan - whose sole Test cap came at The Oval - and uncle, Colin, in scoring double centuries in the County Championship.
"Luke was brilliant," Sussex captain Ed Joyce said, "200 from a young man is an incredible achievement. It's great that he's got runs because he failed in the first game and didn't look in great nick but it's good to know that everyone's now got a few.
"He loves batting. When he got his hundred he was talking straight away about getting 150 and then 200. He just keeps going and it's great to see because even if he's in bad form, if he does get that score he'll make it a big one. He's got a bright future for sure."
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