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Tim Wigmore at Arundel
June 17, 2014
Yorkshire 208 for 3 (Leaning 75*, Lyth 66) trail Sussex 316 (Lewis 61) by 108 runs
From Ranjitsinhji to Mushtaq Ahmed, Sussex supporters have long been blessed by exotic overseas signings. Set against these, Steve Magoffin is a rather less alluring name. But he might just be the most valuable overseas player on the county circuit today.
There is nothing demonstrative about him. Magoffin eschews histrionics and bounds in, harassing the off stump at a pace that is sprightly rather than express. But there is a wonderful rhythm to his bowling. Rangy and with a strong repeatable action, Magoffin's energy is unrelenting even deep into his 35th year. He is still able to extract dangerous lift from wickets as docile as this Arundel track.
Magoffin has enjoyed many triumphant days in his three seasons at Sussex, as his outstanding club record - 157 first-class wickets at 20 apiece - is testament to. "He's as good as anybody there is that does what he does," Sussex's coach Mark Robinson says. "We wouldn't swap him for anyone."
Though he snared only two wickets, few days will provide more emphatic affirmation of Magoffin's worth.
Only the wickets column betrayed him. For consistently defeating groping bats, he deserved plenty more than the two scalps - Alex Lees trapped lbw, and Adam Lyth well caught by Jon Lewis after misjudging a hook - he was restricted to.
The absence of more wickets owed much to Yorkshire's approach. In the absence of Chris Jordan, who may well be detained by England for almost the entirety of the summer, they recognised that Magoffin provided Sussex's main threat. At times, it felt almost as if two games were being played out simultaneously: Yorkshire against Magoffin, in which maidens came more freely than runs; and Yorkshire against everyone else, when it looked rather more fun to be a batsman.
Accord Magoffin respect -that 13 of his 23 overs were maidens shows that Yorkshire emphatically did so. The batsmen reckoned that runs would flow more freely elsewhere.
New Zealand's Test series in the Caribbean has deprived Yorkshire of their regular number three, Kane Williamson. In his absence, Jack Leaning showed the fortitude to excel in the role. Upright in defence, he also displayed the range of shots evident in the best keepers of number three.
When Magoffin was given a break in the early afternoon, Yorkshire had reached only 61 for 1 from 33 overs: especially with the sun resplendent, spectators could have been forgiven for having a quiet siesta. Leaning recognised the opportunity to shake his side out of their torpor, hitting four exquisite boundaries - drives through midwicket and extra cover off James Tredwell, and a late cut and pull off Jon Lewis - in six balls. By the close he had reached 75, sailing past his previous highest first-class score, with the promise of more to come tomorrow.
He found a fine ally in Lyth, with aggressive running a hallmark of their second wicket stand. Compact and particularly strong off the backfoot, Lyth may have aspirations of pinching Sam Robson's Test place: his 66 takes his Division One tally for 2014 to 733 runs at 56 apiece.
The most eye-catching moments of Lyth's innings were a pair of sixes, both nonchalantly lofted down the ground, off Tredwell. But Tredwell could still be content with his first bowl in a Sussex shirt: he bowled with good flight and control, and, after having Andrew Gale dropped behind on nought, had the thrill of uprooting his leg stump as he attempted a sweep.
After 29 worthy overs, plenty more beckon tomorrow, as Yorkshire look to inflict stress on Sussex's flaky batting in the game's third innings.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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