County championship draw specialists Sussex strike again
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Du Plooy’s third hundred of the summer means he is now the leading scorer in Division Two with 979 runs but when he was caught in the deep Derbyshire still needed 54 from 41 balls.
Anuj Dal and Alex Thomson kept going but they were both caught trying to clear the mid-wicket boundary. When Thomson was eighth out with 11 balls remaining Sussex fancied their chances of an unlikely win, but Sam Conners and George Scrimshaw shut up shop, Derbyshire closing on 361 for eight at the end of a remarkable day in which 552 runs were scored. Derbyshire stay bottom and Sussex remain in third place.
Du Plooy’s dismissal – caught at deep mid-wicket off Henry Shipley – with 54 needed from 41 balls was the turning point.
The South African’s fifth-wicket alliance with Haider Ali, who contributed 73 off 54 balls as 145 were added in 20.2 overs, had looked like being decisive. Ali was well caught by Tom Haines trying to clear long off but Du Plooy pushed on, hitting all around the wicket in an impressive display of power, placement and, when required, unorthodoxy as he employed the ramp shot to good effect to find the gaps.
A single off Jack Carson took the 28-year-old to his century and when the last ten overs started and 87 needed, Derbyshire were favourites. But Du Plooy, having hit 17 fours and three sixes in 117 balls faced, tried to clear the temptingly short pavilion-side boundary once too often and thereafter Sussex’s overseas pair Nathan McAndrew and Shipley bowled with impressive control.
Derbyshire had lost three wickets in the afternoon session with Ari Karvelas picking up Harry Came, who edged to slip, before Luis Reece’s lack of footwork betrayed him and he offered a low edge to second slip. Brooke Guest played on to give Shipley his second wicket and at tea Derbyshire still needed 270 in 36 overs. But Du Plooy and Wayne Madsen upped the tempo, adding 60 in 11 overs before James Coles pinned Madsen sweeping with a full-length delivery.
Du Plooy’s effort was the second fine innings of the day after Coles had been last out for a career-best 180 before Sussex declared 25 minutes after lunch.
The 19-year-old, who had resumed on 101, shared stands of 70 for the sixth wicket with Fynn Hudson-Prentice, 62 for the eighth with Carson and 63 for the ninth in 47 balls with Shipley before Sussex pulled out.
Coles had batted for six minutes short of six hours after coming in on day three when Sussex were 1 for two. He faced 264 balls and hit 23 fours and two sixes before holing out to deep mid-wicket, an anti-climactic end to an outstanding innings.
Off-spinner Thomson finished with 5 for 110 and had match figures of 8 for 180. He picked up his fifth wicket when McAndrew was caught at silly point. With George Scrimshaw taking 5 for 49 in Sussex’s first innings, it was the first time two Derbyshire bowlers had taken five wickets in the same game at Hove since 1933.
Sussex head coach Paul Farbrace said: “With an hour to go Derbyshire were winning the game. Leus Du Plooy played brilliantly, it was an outstanding innings but for us the game wasn’t won or lost today it was what happened in the first three days. We had opportunities: 150 for none at lunch on the first day we should have got 500 and made our first innings count. We left a few runs out there and then were 72 for 4 in the second innings before a brilliant partnership from two young kids in James Coles and Dan Ibrahim. Today, we missed a few chances – a couple of run-outs and catches – and those are the little things we need to improve.
“In terms of our declaration, we had to bear in mind the pitch was still very good to bat on and there was a very small boundary on one side. Credit to Derbyshire, they kept going and it was only when they were eight down that they stopped going for it. In the end I think it was worth gambling on trying to win and risking the draw and Derbyshire probably thought the same.
“Our young players will have learned a lot more from that game than playing safe cricket and shaking hands on a draw at 5pm. We’ve had a lot of draws but we’ve also come close to winning the last two home games and the crowd have gone home today knowing that they have seen a thoroughly good game of cricket which counts for something too.”