County Championship: Sussex fight back on topsy-turvy day against Gloucestershire

Sussex salvaged respectability out of a day that at one stage looked disastrous as they finished 66 runs ahead of Gloucestershire on Day 1 of their season-ending LV= County Championship contest at Hove.
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An electric spell of 5-24 from Gloucestershire seamer Matt Taylor blew the Sussex batsmen away either side of lunch, with a slide from 114-4 to 117-8 being a major setback for Paul Farbrace’s men.

Jack Carson’s free-flowing 56 and Sean Hunt’s durable 22 off 68 balls, however, dragged the hosts to a partially competitive total before Brad Currie (2-19) made inroads with the ball.

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There is still much for Sussex to do to restore their chances in this match, with many players needing to make a statement amid questions about who will survive in the squad for 2024.

Sussex seamer Sean Hunt (Photo by Ryan Hiscott/Getty Images)Sussex seamer Sean Hunt (Photo by Ryan Hiscott/Getty Images)
Sussex seamer Sean Hunt (Photo by Ryan Hiscott/Getty Images)

With one eye on the future, Farbrace’s team selection was an intriguing one, with Ali Orr making his first home start in four months not as an opener, but as a number five as Tom Clark kept his place alongside the recalled Tom Haines.

Overseas players Cheteshwar Pujara and Jaydev Unadkat were both unavailable for this match having returned to India, so Currie joined the bowling attack in a side that was without any top-level international experience.

Gloucestershire had issues of their own without frontline bowlers Ajeet Singh Dale, Marchant de Lange, Tom Price, and David Payne, but did not make excuses as others stepped up.

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While Sussex made a bright start after reaching the 10th over at 40-0, when Taylor came on from the Sea End and induced an edge from Clark to first slip, the slide began.

Captain Tom Alsop was out just two balls later charging down and nicking Taylor through to wicketkeeper James Bracey, with a duck continuing a run of low scores for the ex-Hampshire man.

James Coles was guilty of a poor shot against left-arm spinner Zafar Gohar, depositing the ball into the hands of Ollie Price on just three, while Orr’s appearance in the middle-order was ended on 16 from 22 balls by a turning delivery from Price.

All the while, Haines was building up a respectable score at the other end and would find a capable partner in Oli Carter, who stuck with him until lunch, when Sussex were 114-4.

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Whatever was said at the interval, however, had little bearing on what unfolded after.

Carter was out cheaply in the third over after the resumption, nicking the left-arm bowling of Taylor through to Bracey.

On the day he received his Sussex cap, becoming the 157th player to do so, Fynn Hudson-Prentice had the script written for him to revive the innings from number seven.

While he has been the hero so often this season, a repeat was scratched off after just eight balls as he succumbed to a ball that kept straighter from Zafar, chipping up into the hands of Chris Dent.

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Taylor smelt blood in the Sussex line-up at that point, feasting on more batsmen desperately short of confidence.

Haines had to go for 62 thanks to a jaffa from Taylor, who extracted just enough swing out of the pitch to dislodge the Sussex man’s off stump.

As Haines looked at the spike of wood left jaded behind him, it reflected a feeling of confusion and powerlessness around the 1st Central County Ground that has been all too frequent in the past three years.

That only increased when Henry Crocombe was out for another duck later in Taylor’s over, playing around a ball that swung in viciously to take out middle stump.

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To apply an overused adage, the contest had gained the feeling of an end-of-term affair, with very little reaction amongst the Sussex squad or supporters to such a desperate situation at 117-8.

There was little acclaim either for the best stand of the Sussex innings, which surprisingly arrived through Jack Carson and Sean Hunt.

Picking up on the back end of Taylor and Zafar’s spells, the tailenders then took Gloucestershire’s change trio of Josh Shaw, Zaman Akhter, and Ed Middleton to task, picking up a selection of boundaries.

It eventually came to an end when Hunt spooned a chest-high bouncer from Akhter up to Bracey, but Sussex’s bowler had his highest First-Class score of 22 and Sussex a pulse at 188-9.

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Carson then took things on himself, reaching his 50 from 66 balls before succumbing for 56 to a turning delivery from Zafar, meaning the Sussex innings ended on 202.

A huge fightback was required, but Sussex’s young attack – with just 276 wickets from 131 previous First-Class appearances – had a pitch that still retained its green tinge to play with.

Opening bowlers Currie and Hunt took full advantage of this, with Currie getting things started by nipping one into Ben Charlesworth in his second over and finding an edge to Tom Clark at second slip.

Hunt followed up with the wicket of experienced opener Chris Dent, who picked out Crocombe at mid-wicket on just seven, making it 10-2.

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Currie then collected the prized wicket of James Bracey before his spell was up, getting the ball to swing just enough to bring an edge through to James Coles.

That left Gloucestershire in some strife at 42-3, and more chances were to come for Sussex.

Ollie Price was reprieved as a couple of catches went down in front of Tom Clark and Oli Carter, while he also survived a tight stumping call.

Miles Hammond then took his turn in the limelight, receiving treatment for a Crocombe bouncer that struck him on the helmet.

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In Crocombe’s next over, Hammond exacted revenge by muscling away a huge six, although it was followed immediately by an agonising drop for Ali Orr, who almost had the batsman caught at mid-wicket.

The contest between batsman and bowler was not done there, either.

Taking on Jack Carson from the spinner’s third delivery, Hammond fell for 48 when he sent the ball way up in the Sussex sky and found Crocombe for a fantastic catch at mid-off.

Price, meanwhile, had ground to a halt at the other end and would suffer for a lack of timing when dismissed soon after, jabbing a Hunt delivery into the hands of Coles to make it 121-5.

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With the light dimming, there was just enough time for Haines to draw Graeme van Buuren into a costly chip to Carson at deep square leg, seeing the Gloucestershire skipper out for 11.

The visitors eventually reached 133-6 at the close, setting up a fascinating Day 2 of this mid-table contest.

After the close, Sussex bowler Hunt spoke of the importance of keeping up momentum tomorrow (Weds). “To come out and get them six down was very handy because we know the pitch will get better,” said Hunt. “I think [the game] is still in the balance.

“Maybe we’re slightly ahead, but we need to take our wickets early and then pile on the runs and put the pressure back on them.”

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Hunt also discussed the importance of players stepping up in the absence of Pujara and Unadkat, which they did in the evening session.

“Everyone’s got an opportunity here to come out, show their stuff and stick their hand up,” said Hunt. “It’s been tough with the calibre of players we’ve had in, so for people to take their opportunity is good.”