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STUMPS & REACTION: Wells leads battle as Sussex hope to upset Durham

17-Jun-2015

Sussex hauled themselves back into this LV=County Championship match with Durham at Arundel Castle, although the north-east outfit remain favourites for victory, despite Luke Wells' battling 53 not out.

The hosts have never made more than 455 in the fourth innings before so chasing 514 looks an unlikely prospect, but on an Arundel wicket which has got easier to bat on they showed enough resilience in reaching 114 for 2 at stumps, to suggest Durham’s bowlers face plenty of hard labour on the fourth day to win.

The first wicket stand of 60 between Wells and Mike Yardy was Sussex’s highest of the season and Yardy was rightly furious with himself when he wasted a solid start with an airy drive at Paul Coughlin’s fourth ball.

John Hastings bent his back and was rewarded with the wicket of Matt Machan, who got a thin nick trying to get inside the line, but Wells and Ed Joyce put down solid foundations in the remaining 14 overs with Wells reaching an unbeaten 53 from 132 balls just before stumps.

That Durham are in such a strong position owed much to Gordon Muchall’s composed first hundred since last May and a thumping 91 by Hastings which propelled them to 413, their highest total of the season.

Muchall’s unbeaten 81 had been the stand-out effort in both teams’ first innings and the 32-year-old right-hander did not offer a chance as progressed serenely from his overnight 66, reaching his century with a single off Wells.

Three more boundaries came after the landmark but on 115 Wells got one to turn enough to defeat his defensive push. He faced 222 balls and hit 14 fours and two sixes. While the form of Chris Rushworth, Graham Onions and co. are crucial to Durham’s hopes of a fourth title since 2008 more contributions like Muchall’s from their top six might make the all the difference as pitches flatten out in the second half of the summer.

This surface, which coughed up 26 wickets on the first two days, has reverted to Arundel type with little evidence of the uneven bounce. Sussex were a seamer down and though the form of both Steve Magoffin, who finished with 5 for 89, and Tim Linley was promising, they struggled to finish Durham off even after Muchall departed just before lunch.

Hastings, all bottom-handed belligerence, was soon peppering the grass bank as he launched an assault of Wells and left-arm spinner George Dockrell. Coughlin was more circumspect but still lodged his second successive half-century from No.8 while Chris Rushworth added 48 with Hastings for the ninth wicket with few alarms.

Graham Onions proved just as resolute, but although Hastings posted a new Championship best a maiden hundred eluded him when he swung fatally across the line at Linley’s slower ball, his 91 off 72 balls containing nine fours and five sixes.

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