Wells digs deep
Today’s double-centurion Luke Wells will be hard pushed to continue the trend of improving his LV= County Championship scores versus Surrey when he next plays them.
The 22-year-old left-hander, so far a first-class specialist, has hit hundreds in each of his championship games against Surrey, each time improving on the previous effort.
That sequence began a year ago with 108 here at the Kia Oval and continued with 127 at Horsham in June. Having reached three figures shortly before stumps yesterday, Wells again eschewed risk to set up a significant first-innings lead of 175.
Wells extended his overnight stand of 104 with Ed Joyce to 200 before Matt Prior dominated a brisk 91-run alliance with a typically sprightly 62 from 45 balls. Having added 60 with Rory Hamilton-Brown, Wells departed for a career-best 208 as he attacked the occasional spin of Vikram Solanki. Wells’ next chance to face Surrey in the championship is in June at Arundel.
Solanki also accounted for Hamilton-Brown, facing Surrey for the first time since relinquishing their captaincy and leaving the Kia Oval last year, for 39. The tail then lifted Sussex to 526 all out.
Steve Magoffin found the early breakthrough the visitors craved when Rory Burns edged behind, but Graeme Smith scored smoothly alongside first-innings centurion Gary Wilson with their fifty partnership arriving shortly before stumps.
Smith, who had taken Surrey to 50 with three fours in Monty Panesar’s first over, closed with 43 of the hosts’ 66 for one, 109 behind. Their hope of saving the game on a still-true pitch could be aided by a mixed forecast for tomorrow.
Wells and Joyce began an overcast day that featured broken sunshine with 108 and 51 respectively of Sussex’s 204 for two and rotated the strike effectively in the first half hour.
Wells played perhaps the shot of his innings, sweetly cover-driving Tim Linley for four, before Wilson nearly pulled off a stunning catch. Joyce’s edge off Chris Tremlett landed just short of Wilson diving to his left at second slip.
Joyce emphatically pulled Jade Dernbach for four to reach 97. Then, after a period of calm, Wells exquisitely cover-drove Zander de Bruyn to the rope to herald his 150, the 200 partnership and Sussex’s 300.
However, in the next over Joyce, playing forward, was bowled for 98 by off-spinner Gareth Batty. It was another near-miss for the new captain, who made 92 in his other championship innings this year - against Yorkshire at Headingley. A hail shower forced lunch to be taken 10 minutes early before another ball could be bowled.
Prior, playing his first innings since a Test-series-saving ton versus New Zealand, announced himself by striking Batty for a one-bounce four to long-on.
He was reprieved on 18 by Solanki’s spill at midwicket off the unlucky Linley and made the most of it with two consecutive reverse-swept fours immediately followed by a conventionally swept six, all off Batty.
Another Wells cover-driven four soon put Sussex ahead and, shortly after, Prior raced to a stunning, 36-ball fifty. Wells then straight-drove Tremlett to the boundary for a career-best 175.
Prior’s fun ended when he miscued a pull off Dernbach to be held at mid-off. Hamilton-Brown, warmly applauded by the crowd as he made his way to the middle, was greeted by a Dernbach bouncer.
Surrey kept Wells and Hamilton-Brown quiet for a while until each gathered a boundary from a Batty over. The former Surrey skipper grew in confidence with two fours in a de Bruyn set of six.
Wells moved to his double-hundred by cutting Solanki for a single to the cover sweeper. He celebrated modestly, removing his helmet and acknowledging the applause. Wells then hit Solanki down the ground to put Sussex 100 ahead but next ball advanced only to be bowled from his 412th delivery, having struck 24 fours and a six.
In his next over, winter signing Solanki had his second Surrey wicket: Hamilton-Brown caught and bowled.
Not long after tea Linley, Surrey’s best bowler, struck for the first time today as Ben Brown, playing across the line, was castled for 23.
With the 500 up and Chris Jordan, like Hamilton-Brown a winter signing from Surrey, gaining his first championship runs for Sussex, James Anyon smote Batty down the ground for six.
Linley, who returned 3-82 from 32 overs, had further reward when Jordan played on for 23. Anyon then fell for 14, holing out off Batty as Jason Roy made a tricky catch look simple. It was three wickets in as many overs when Panesar swung Tremlett tamely to mid-on to end the innings.