The journey started with a match against Kent CCC (17th May) at the 1st Central County Ground, Hove. Under bright skies Kent won the toss and decided to have a bat.
They were soon to regret that as both Ishant Sharma and Oliver Robinson ripped out the top order with ease. Daniel Bell-Drummond showed most of the Kent resolve with a gutsy, chanceless 90. His innings could have paved the way for a par score but Danny Briggs took out the tail with the visitors stranded on 188 all out.
Sussex finished the job with ease, Luc Wells scoring 62 up top. Skipper Ben Brown 73 no, who is in fine order with the bat and Laurie Evans calmly steered the hosts to a comfortable victory.
On Saturday (May 19) Hove looked as pretty as a picture under bright sunshine. A huge crowd settled in as Sussex and Hampshire slug out an epic battle. Skipper Brown won the toss and showed intent by batting first. Hasting’s lad Harry Finch is having a wonderful season with the bat. His debut one day ton was warmly received by all in the ground. It was an inns of craft and discipline.
He was backed by a flamboyant half century from Luke Wright. David Wiese smashed a very quick 29 late on to move the score on to 250 off the allotted. Robinson and Wiese then went on the rampage as Hampshire wilted in the sun, 133 for 6. However, their Gareth Berg suddenly turned the game with some big hitting. From nowhere he was smashing fours and sixes to all parts. It was the turning point as Hampshire somehow crept over the line.
For Sussex players, their coach Jason Gillespie, members and fans it was a tough defeat to take. That’s cricket and as Jason said after ‘the opposition are allowed to play well!’
On May 22 Sussex CCC and yours truly ventured to Taunton to take on the might of Somerset CCC. It was the first of three long distant encounters of this competition. Our driver for the day John, in his Seat Ateca choose the M3 and then A roads past Stonehenge. Its quite a trek but we were well in time for the 11am start. We took our seats in the Ian Botham stand behind the bowler’s arm. Taunton is a really wonderful stadium which can create a raucous atmosphere. Such is the passion for cricket in that area.
Ben won the toss again and decided to have another bat. Luke Wright took the early initiative with in form Harry Finch, 35, giving very useful back up. The 100 came up in an hour which gave Sussex a real platform. While Wright kept up a barrage of boundaries on route to a spellbinding ton, Laurie Evans (43) played a big part in the effort. Michael Burgess and David Wiess with stunning late innings half centuries gave the visitors a very comforting 341 lead. Oliver Robinson found two quick wickets to put the hosts on the back foot. The home crowd going silent.
Somerset just couldn’t get set and were struggling. However, James Hildreth and Matthew Renshaw got their heads down and started to create a worrying partnership. For an hour they batted with patience and determination. Home fans perking up. The turning point of the match came when David Wiess bowled his effort ball which took Renshaw’s inside edge and then Ben Brown took a splendid catch. As home support then started to leave Sharma expertly took out the tail, Somerset 75 runs short.
Luke Wright will deservedly receive all the plaudits for a match winning innings. However, what we saw today was a continuation in improvement from all Sussex players, individually and collectively. Under new head coach Jason Gillespie Sussex are really starting to play a very open and attractive style of cricket and in turn are winning matches. It is very exciting wondering where this set of Sussex cricketers can take all this.