Match of the Day - Surrey v Sussex, 2nd day April 17, 2004

Adams leads by example

Paul Coupar at The Brit Oval

Sussex 445 for 9 (Adams 101, Ward 82, Ambrose 56) lead Surrey 304 by 141 runs at The Brit Oval

Chris Adams celebrates his century © Getty Images

The men building the new Vauxhall Stand at The Oval clocked off at 12.30 this afternoon. Perhaps they were on to something: sometimes the spectators must have wished they'd slipped off too. After some slow rebuilding, Sussex ended the day at 445 for 9, a lead of 141, which was more than they should have. Surrey's bowling in the evening was awful.

Sussex cricket is widely known for deckchairs at Hove and flamboyant batsmen: CB Fry's cover-drive, Duleepsinhji's late cut, Ted Dexter's effortless superiority. But this Championship-winning side is a bit different. Resuming at 75 without loss, they lost three early wickets. After that it was dour: exactly 75 more runs before lunch. Chris Adams blocked his buccaneering instincts ­­- and the Surrey seamers ­- for much of his 101. Tim Ambrose, his partner after lunch, was neat, unflamboyant, and the antithesis of the eccentric wicketkeeper.

The odd spectator nodded off. Sometimes you could see why Lord Mancroft called cricket "A game the English, not being a spiritual people, invented to give themselves some conception of eternity."

But it was effective. Adams reached an 182-ball hundred after tea, with a cut for four. But just as he promised to add style to the substance he was lbw to Ormond. Adams added 102 with Ambrose, and then 83 with Prior, both wicketkeeper-batsmen with England hopes. Adams has helped bring a new toughness to Sussex: reared in Whitwell, a Derbyshire mining village, and steeled in a disputatious Derbyshire dressing-room. Whitwell has produced winners before, notably Joe Davis, the all-conquering snooker player who won a record 15 world titles.

After tea Sussex let their hair down, playing shots and losing wickets. Jason Lewry feasted on some feckless bowling to end with 44 not out. At the very last there was a touch of the fun of the fair.

Earlier, Ian Ward had looked as if he'd make his former club pay for edging him out last year, and for missing a catch off him here. But he was trapped on the crease and lbw to Tim Murtagh. Murtagh is standing in for Alex Tudor who, almost inevitably, has a bad back. Steve Rixon, Surrey's hard-nosed new coach, will make big demands on Tudor, which could well show once and for all whether he will make a Test player. As the ball swung around, it looked as if Sussex could collapse. Then Adams took over.

Day 1 - Bulletin - Azhar Mahmood to the rescue for Surrey

Paul Coupar is assistant editor of Wisden Cricketers' Almanack.