Lee's century puts Suffolk in control

NICK Lee struck a majestic century as Suffolk took a stranglehold of their Minor Counties Championship fixture against Northumberland at the end of day two at the Victory Ground in Bury St Edmunds.

By Carl Marston

NICK Lee struck a majestic century as Suffolk took a stranglehold of their Minor Counties Championship fixture against Northumberland at the end of day two at the Victory Ground in Bury St Edmunds.

Lee and Ben France were the principal playmakers in a Suffolk total of 326 for seven, off 90 overs, with further useful middle-order contributions from Chris Swallow, Chris Warn and skipper Phil Caley.

Northumberland therefore trailed by 92 runs on first innings, and by the close last night they had progressed to 146 for four, a narrow lead of 54 with six wickets remaining. Play resumes at 11am this morning for the final day.

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For Lee it was his first century in the colours of Suffolk, and so was an extra special innings. The Bury St Edmunds batsman took full advantage of playing on a familiar batting strip, having chalked up a century for Bury in the Premier League against Vauxhall Mallards earlier in the season. Resuming on an overnight score of 56 for two, France (77) and Lee (105) went on to share a 91-run partnership for the third wicket to give Suffolk the platform for a big lead.

“If we had lost some wickets early in the day, then it would have been an issue. It was important to continue the partnership to help us to a good lead,” said Lee.

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“My previous highest Championship score for Suffolk was 69, also against Northumberland, so I must like playing them! The wicket had flattened out a bit, after a difficult first morning, and I would rate this as one of the best innings of my career.

“Getting a good lead was crucial. It put the pressure on Northumberland, and hopefully we can knock over the last six wickets in the morning,” added Lee, who is in his fourth season with Bury and Suffolk.

The hard-hitting France struck 12 boundaries in his innings of 77, compiled off 156 balls. By the time he was dismissed, caught behind off the bowling of Graeme Bridge, Suffolk were well set at 125 for three.

Swallow joined Lee to add a further 84 for the fourth wicket, so propelling the hosts to within 25 runs of Northumberland's first innings total. All-rounder Swallow fell just three runs short of his half-century, but wicket-keeper Warn (30) continued the good work to take the game further away from the visitors.

Lee reached his century off 242 deliveries, with 10 boundaries. Having come in with Suffolk tottering on 34 for two on Sunday night, he was eventually sixth out with the score on 317.

Skipper Caley weighed in with a cameo innings of 25 to rub salt into Northumberland's wounds, and although Suffolk took time to make inroads into the visitors' second innings, they still ended the day in a strong position.

Opener Daniel Shurben top-scored with 51, but Northumberland's cause was not helped by a needless run out at the end of the evening, just when Alistair Maiden was looking dangerous on 37.

Victory Ground scoreboard


First innings: 234 (G Bridge 59, B France 3 for 48, J Bishop 3 for 59).

Second innings

D Shurben c Warn b France 51

A Worthy lbw b Edwards 23

A Maiden run out 37

B Parker lbw b Swallow 3

I Pattison not out 17

S Gale not out 0

Extras lb4 w1 nb10 15

Total (for 4 wkts, 42 overs) 146

Fall: 1-52 2-96 3-116 4-146.

Bowling: Edwards 10-3-38-1, Bishop 9-2-27-0, King 4-0-17-0, France 5-0-25-1, Swallow 9-3-19-1, Geeves 5-0-16-0.

Suffolk First innings

T Huggins b Stewart 9

B France c Nicholson b Bridge 77

T Hembry c Nicholson b Stewart 2

N Lee c Parker b Gale 105

C Swallow c Parker b Pattison 47

C Warn lbw b Bridge 30

P Caley not out 25

P King c Shurben b Gale 0

J Bishop not out 2

Extras b9 lb5 w7 nb8 29

Total: (for 7, 90 overs) 326

Fall: 1-30 2-34 3-125 4-209 5-271 6-317 7-317

Bowling: Stewart 19-4-64-2, Rutherford 17-4-36-0, Graham 9-2-28-0, Pattison 7-2-43-1, Bridge 21-7-52-2, Gale 17-0-89-2.

PAUL Grayson's elevation to first team cricket coach at Essex puts into doubt his availability to play for Suffolk in their Minor Counties Knock-Out Trophy final at Lord's on Monday August 27.

Grayson, 36, has a dual registration with Suffolk and played in a leading role in their crucial final group game victory at Bedfordshire.

Suffolk are entitled to play one player with recognised first class experience and they are banking on Grayson or Surrey's Chris Schofield giving the side a lift during their big day at cricket's headquarters.

Kevin Brooks, the Suffolk director of cricket, said: “Essex have no game on August 27, but it remains to be seen whether Paul (Grayson) will be available or have Essex commitments.

“We will also be keeping an eye on Chris Schofield's situation with Surrey.”

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