Trescothick digs deep to gladden Somerset
Somerset 83 for 3 v Sussex
Marcus Trescothick has been the mainstay of Somerset cricket for so long that any sign that he is beginning to rediscover some of his old poise is bound to quicken West Country hearts. There were enough Trescothick clumps to record on an abbreviated first day at Hove, interspersed in an innings of staunch resistance, to encourage the belief that the old mastery can yet return and provide the sort of finish he deserves as the shadows lengthen on a grand career.
Sussex's seam attack has possessed an early-season potency that has carried them to the top of Division One, their first two matches won, and once the grouchy South Coast skies had finally relented, 32 overs represented a daunting proposition for Somerset: more than enough time, as events elsewhere in the country indicated, for carnage to ensue.
When Chris Jordan, in turquoise-backed boots, twinkled in with a loosener which may not be bettered all season, Chris Jones edging his first ball to the wicketkeeper, that impression was heightened, but their line was astray too often. It was only in the nick of time that Sussex made further inroads after Trescothick and Nick Compton gradually asserted themselves with impressive deliberation.
Compton was 14 balls away from seeing out the day when he became the second batsman to be caught at the wicket, this time off Steve Magoffin. Sussex looked at their most dangerous when Jordan had the slope in his favour in his second spell. He made several deliveries bounce steeply and, from one of them, the nightwatchman Jamie Overton fell to a cracking reaction catch at second slip, low to his left, by Mike Yardy.
The Sussex keeper, incidentally, remains Ben Brown as Matt Prior's Achilles problems are yet to relent. A season in which he must have yearned to make heavy runs to re-establish himself in the England side has so far deepened concerns about his longevity at international level.
Prior habitually credits cycling with assisting his recovery, but this time his ailment has been so troublesome that he might have to put in enough miles to have an outside chance of a Tour de France spot when the tour comes to Yorkshire later this summer.
Trescothick stood firm to the close. Somerset's hopes must be that when he finally retires, his 2013 Championship season will be seen as an aberration: an average of 28 and, more strikingly, no Championship century for the first time since 1998, a shortfall which encouraged much chat about whether he should reduce the burden by relinquishing the captaincy. The player himself saw no burden and remains, a player whose big presence on the county circuit continues to be prized by the crowds and whose wicket is still valued by the professionals he pits himself against.
Never particularly fleet of foot, he took his first run from a pushed drive a little slowly - setting off like a second-hand tractor on a damp morning. There are many farmers in Somerset who will tell you that a second-hand tractor is not to be trusted, but this particular variety has proved its serviceability more than most.
More than 20 overs elapsed before Trescothick's first belligerent moment - an overpitched delivery from James Anyon which he barndoored through cover. The old boy clearly got a taste for it and so nearly got out as he failed to connect with an attempted repeat against a wider delivery. But his authority had been announced and when Anyon went in search of a similar dismissal in his next over Trescothick deposited him for three boundaries in a row. A sumptuous straight drive near the close was the highlight. Another tough examination lies ahead.
David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo