Crushing defeat: Sussex start One Day Cup campaign with hefty loss to Durham
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A good-sized crowd of more than 2,000 saw Durham captain and former England Test opener Lees score a magnificent career-best 144, from 107 balls and featuring 19 fours.
But as impressive as Lees was, the truly spectacular strokeplay came from Bedingham, who struck seven sixes and six fours in a runaway 102 from just 54 balls, and Clark, whose 58-ball 72 included three sixes and seven fours.
Bedingham and Lees blitzed 194 for the second wicket in only 19 overs after Clark and Lees had opened up with 135 in the first 17 overs following Durham’s decision to bat.
Only Tom Haines, with 65 from 56 balls, put up any sort of challenge to Durham’s massive score as Tom Alsop was bowled in the second over of Sussex’s reply and returning Indian Test star Cheteshwar Pujara disappointingly slapped a return catch to off spinner George Drissell.
James Coles also pulled a long hop from Liam Trevaskis to mid wicket to go for 12 and Haines edged Jonathan Bushnell’s medium pace behind to leave the Sharks 113 for four in the 19th over. From there it was only a matter of time before Durham completed victory, although Fynn Hudson-Prentice had some lower-order fun with two sixes and eight fours of his own in a 34-ball 65 and Henry Crocombe helped himself to a career-high 47 before being last man out.
Sussex head coach Paul Farbrace said: "This is far from the start we wanted in this competition and it was a crushing defeat - there's no two ways about that. But Durham played some wonderful cricket today and their two openers virtually killed the game off with the way they batted in those first 15 overs or so.
"Alex Lees played brilliantly, Graham Clark is a superb striker of the ball and then David Bedingham also came in and played magnificently. They didn't really give a chance in that first part of their innings, apart perhaps for a couple of run-out half-chances, and we have been beaten by the much better side on the day, who never really let us into the game from the start.
"But I did think we stuck at it well during their innings, because at one stage they looked like they might get 500. Jack Carson, having been hit for 41 from his first three overs, came back excellently and showed a lot of character to finish with four wickets and we also fielded with character. So that's a positive to take from this game, plus almost getting 300 ourselves, but when you're chasing 400-plus you need one of your top four to score 150 or something if you're going to have any chance at all."
Lees struck a remarkable six fours in one seven-ball Crocombe over, which included a no ball and cost the young paceman 26 runs, while off spinner Jack Carson’s first three overs were plundered for 41. To both Sussex bowlers’ credit, they stuck to their thankless tasks on a belting batting pitch to finish with 3 for 81 and 4 for 83 respectively.
Bedingham struck left-arm quick Bradley Currie for three sixes in an over, and two straight sixes off successive balls from slow left-armer Coles. His first six, perhaps the biggest hit of the lot, was hoisted off Carson, and he also swung Haines’ medium pace high over the same hospitality boxes.
Clark, who took two legside sixes off Hudson-Prentice’s seam-up and a glorious extra cover four besides, began the carnage by flipping Steven Finn over the long leg ropes in the former England fast bowler’s fourth over with the new ball, which also contained three legside wides. Finn later left the field, despite some boundary-edge treatment, and also did not bat.
There were 12 sixes and 37 fours in Durham’s imposing total, which comfortably eclipsed their previous List A best of 405 for four, made against Kent at Beckenham in 2021.
At one stage, when the Lees-Bedingham stand was at its height, it looked as if Durham would make 500, let alone top 400. Indeed, at the 35-over mark they were 320 for one but Lees fell in the next over to spark a collapse – if it could be called that – of six wickets for 19 runs in 4.3 overs.
However, Bushnell and Michael Jones then added a sensibly-paced 65 in eight overs for the eighth wicket, and Durham’s score easily passed 400 in the end.
Jones drove Crocombe straight for six in a 29-ball 38 before falling to a catch in the deep off the same bowler in the penultimate over. Drissell managed one neatly cut four in a brief stay and Bushnell remained unbeaten on 37, from 31 balls.
Earlier, Crocombe had Clark caught at deep square leg and later added the wickets of Bedingham, taken at long off in the 37th over, while Carson sent back Lees, leg-before sweeping, Migael Pretorius, Ben McKinney and Trevaskis in quick succession.
When Hudson-Prentice bowled Paul Coughlin, at the start of the 41st over, Durham were suddenly 348 for seven but the Jones-Bushnell partnership ensured a record-breaking total was reached.
Sussex visit Northants for their next game on Sunday (Aug 6).