Ben France century underpins Suffolk’s total on opening day at Staffordshire
BEN France scored his first century for Suffolk in more than two years on the opening day of the Minor Counties Championship match against Staffordshire at Knypersley yesterday.
The Clacton all-rounder had not reached three figures for Suffolk since scoring 102 against Bedfordshire at Ransomes Sports Ground in Ipswich in June 2009.
But after losing opening partner Tom Huggins to the second ball of the second over after Suffolk had been put into bat, France dug in and batted throughout the 90 overs as Suffolk declared on 246 for six.
He showed great powers of concentration on a day when batting conditions were far from easy, facing 246 balls which were laced with six fours and two sixes.
France shared a second-wicket stand of 106 in 210 minutes spanning 55 overs with Martyn Cull, whose 54 spanned 174 deliveries and contained six fours.
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After Cull departed leg before Hassan Adnan upped the tempo with 22 from 37 balls before he dragged on the last ball of the 68th over to leave Suffolk 145 for three.
France and Sasha Ward added a further 56 before the latter fell to the first ball of the 84th over, when Craig Barker held a good catch diving forward to his left at short extra cover.
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Chris Swallow was promoted up the order in a bid to secure a third batting point, but was caught in front of the sightscreen after hitting the ball back over Barker’s head from the third ball he received as two wickets fell in the 84th over.
Ben Shepperson, on only his second appearance for Suffolk, produced a cameo of 22 off 16 balls before he was sent back by France looking for a second run and was run out.
Justin Bishop swung the next delivery - the last ball of the 90th over - over mid wicket to the right of the pavilion for six, and then when Staffordshire started their reply he trapped James Campbell lbw with the third ball of the innings.
France was pressed into action at the other end in the absence of Matt Hunn, who has been laid low with suspected glandular fever, while there were a couple of overs of leg spin from Essex’s Tom Craddock, who is making his debut alongside Sudbury’s James Poulson.
Tim Maxfield was severe on anything loose in reaching 37 off 43 deliveries as Staffordshire closed on 54 for one - 192 runs behind with nine first-innings wickets still standing heading into day two.
First innings: T Huggins lbw b Barker 2, B France not out 106, M Cull lbw b Willott 54, H Adnan b Imran Arif 22, S Ward c Wilshaw b Barker 26, C Swallow c Imran Arif b Barker 1, B Shepperson run out 22, J Bishop not out 6. Extras 7. Total (for 6 wkts dec, 90 overs) 246.
Did not bat yesterday: C Warn, T Craddock, J Poulson.
Fall: 1-3, 2-109, 4-145, 4-201, 5-203, 6-240.
Bowling: Willott 21-8-48-1; Barker 22-8-58-3; Imran Arif 21-6-51-1; Atiq-ur-Rehmann Chishti 8-3-16-0; Byrne 18-2-68-0.
First innings: J Campbell lbw b Bishop 0, K Ali not out 16, T Maxfield not out 37. Extras 1. Total (for 1 wkt, 13 overs) 54.
Did not bat yesterday: Atiq-ur-Rehmann Chishti, P Wilshaw, B McGuire, P Goodwin, Imran Arif, P Byrne, G Willott, C Barker.
Bowling: Bishop 7-2-26-1; France 4-1-12-0; Craddock 2-0-15-0.
Staffordshire 2pts, Suffolk 2pts