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George Dobell at Edgbaston
August 29, 2013
Warwickshire 252 for 6 (Evans 137, Ambrose 61) trail Sussex 311 (Wells 65, Jordan 61, Nash 59, Chambers 5-68) by 59 runs
For all the talk of youth development and home-grown talent, sometimes there is much to be said for a fresh start.
So it has proved for Laurie Evans. The 25-year-old came into this campaign having never registered a Championship century or a prolonged run in the first team. He was at that age where people were starting to whisper that it was time to get a proper job.
But he had never had much opportunity. Despite a first-class century for Durham UCCE against Lancashire in 2007 and a stack of runs for Surrey Second XI - he scored five centuries for them in the summer they released him, 2010 - the first seven years of his career brought only 13 first-class matches. His career was in danger of passing him by.
But now, finally given a run in the first team, he has responded in fine style. He has scored three centuries in three successive Championship matches at Edgbaston, in the process taking his career average above 40 and his season average above 60. He looks a fine player who could yet graduate to the highest level.
There was nothing straightforward about this innings. He came to the crease with Warwickshire 0 for 2 and both Steve Magoffin and Chris Jordan bowling very well.
But the difference between Evans and his top-order colleagues was his judgement about which balls to leave and which to play. While Magoffin had Varun Chopra and Ateeq Javid caught in the slips from successive deliveries just outside off stump, Evans left with a certainty that bodes well for his future. Having seen off the hat-trick ball, he concentrated on survival and took 102 deliveries over his first 50 runs.
As he gained in confidence, saw the shine off the ball and forced the bowlers into second and third spells, he unveiled some flowing cover drives, some delightful late cuts and, against the gentle legspin of Will Beer, in particular, some savage pulls. Suffice it to say, on a wicket as slow as this, Beer is no substitute for Monty Panesar. Evans's second 50 took 79 balls and his final 37, containing a delightful lofted six off Beer, only 34 balls.
There were some moments of fortune. Evans might have been run-out on 38 had Luke Wells, at mid-on, hit the stumps with his throw and, on 45, he really should have been caught by Jimmy Anyon, also at mid-on, after mistiming a pull off Beer. An edge off the immaculate Magoffin, who passed 50 wickets in the campaign, might also have gone to hand but instead flew between second slip and gully.
Warwickshire were grateful for Evans's intervention. After Ian Westwood tried to cut one too close to him and William Porterfield, enduring a run of form so grim that, in Victorian times, it might have featured in a travelling circus, had become the third duck in the top five, Warwickshire were wobbling on 47 for 4. The squeamish may want to look away now, but Porterfield has not passed 25 in his last 10 Championship innings, not passed 36 this season and is averaging just 14.68.
But with Tim Ambrose, who produced a series of straight drives, Evans added 137 for Warwickshire's fifth-wicket. While Magoffin, later dubbed "county cricket's Glenn McGrath" by Evans and Jordan, continued to bowl admirably, the absence of Panesar leaves a large hole in the Sussex attack. While Warwickshire have Jeetan Patel, whose extra pace may yet gain some joy from a dry but slow surface, Sussex's spinners look a bit innocuous to trouble even in the fourth innings. Sussex have only won here once since 1961. And that was in 1982.
Ambrose was eventually the victim of a super bouncer, one that reared at him and hit the glove, and a fine catch as Rory Hamilton-Brown dived in from gully to cling on to the ball, while Evans, in attempting to capitalise on his hard work, fell trying to punish the spinners before the return of the new ball. "I should be not out," he said ruefully afterwards. "I have lots of areas in which I can improve."
Evans is not the only man benefitting from a fresh start at Edgbaston. Earlier in the day, Maurice Chambers became the 17th player to claim a five-wicket haul on his Warwickshire first-class debut as Sussex lost their last three wickets for 19 runs.
Jordan's fine innings, and his 97-run stand with Beer for the eighth-wicket, was ended with an inswinging yorker, before Beer played around a straight one and Magoffin was beaten for pace. Evans later suggested that, though Liam Plunkett's short ball may be quicker, and Boyd Rankin remained the quickest bowler in county cricket, Chambers and Jordan were as quick as anyone else he had seen this season.
Coincidentally, the 16th man to take a five-wicket haul on Warwickshire debut was also a fast bowler on loan from Essex. Like Chambers, Chris Wright found himself unwanted at Chelmsford at the end of 2011 but soon proved his worth elsewhere.
Chambers only signed for Warwickshire on the morning of the game after receiving a call from Chopra on Tuesday. He was summoned purely to help the side through an availability crisis but, having bowled at a sharp pace with good control, he can only have impressed. Interestingly, he also gained some swing in both directions. While he has long taken the ball away from the bat, an ability to move it back into the batsman at pace could render him an unusually dangerous bowler.
Essex have told him he is free to talk to other counties and Hampshire, Worcestershire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Northants have all been in touch.
"I need to get away," Chambers said of Essex. "I need a change of scenery. I've taken three five-fors for the seconds this season, but I can't get in the side."
If he can bowl like this regularly - and no-one doubts he can do it occasionally - he will have no problem demanding a spot in most sides.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: George Dobell
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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