LVCC cricket: Bowlers make hay on ‘below-average’ Sussex pitch

Matt Hobden produced career-best LV County Championship figures to give Sussex a slight advantage after another bowler-dominated day at Hove.

Steve Magoffin
Steve Magoffin

Hobden took four for 43 in a telling ten-over burst before Rikki Clarke led Warwickshire’s fightback with an unbeaten 32 on the second day. Bad light stopped play after an over of the final session with Warwickshire 180 for seven, a lead of 169, and even though the floodlights were in use it didn’t improve sufficiently to allow a resumption.

With 27 wickets falling in five sessions the surface has unsurprisingly come under extra scrutiny. Umpires Michael Gough and Russell Evans have already marked it ‘below average’ and if they downgrade that assessment to ‘poor’ it will be reported to the ECB by Cricket Liaison Officer Tony Pigott once he has consulted both captains, coaches, umpires and the groundsman Andy Mackay. “A points deduction is an option for the disciplinary committee,” said Pigott.

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Two players, Chris Wright and Tim Ambrose, needed treatment after being hit on the helmet but while the occasional ball has bounced disconcertingly there has also been some fine bowling, not least by the 22-year-old Hobden who settled into a probing line and discomfited the batsmen with his extra pace.

Wright, who had been promoted to No3 with Ian Westwood unable to bat after he was hit on the hand by Chris Jordan on the first day, was defeated by Hobden’s first ball and with his 10th delivery he had Jonathan Trott (16) also taken expertly at second slip by Jordan.

Ambrose (32) counter-attacked with six boundaries only to be caught behind trying to cut a delivery well outside off stump and Laurie Evans became Hobden’s fourth victim when he was bowled for nine.

At the other end, Steve Magoffin picked up two wickets, his inswinger defeating Varun Chopra for six before he knocked out Keith Barker’s off stump. Ollie Robinson claimed his seventh wicket in the match when stand-in opener Ateed Javid was caught at point forcing off the back foot after battling for 93 minutes for 27 runs.

Batting at times was fraught with difficulty but Sussex opener Luke Wells had earlier shown what was possible with sound judgement before he was ninth out for 92 when he became a fourth victim for off-spinner Jeetan Patel to a ball that kept low, having batted for four hours and hit 12 fours and a six in 181 balls faced.

Sussex, who had resumed on 140 for five, lost wickets regularly in the morning session with no one able to match Wells’ skilful innings until Magoffin (15) helped him add 25 for the ninth wicket to take Sussex into the lead. Patel finished with four for 24.

Hobden said: “I do enjoy bowling down the slope at Hove but I have had trouble with no balls. So I worked on running in slightly straighter with our bowling coach Jon Lewis and it has paid off.

“If you bowl that heavy, fuller length there is some variable bounce in the wicket so it’s great to get four good wickets and hopefully I can get my first five-for in the Championship tomorrow.

“It’s very well poised. If we can bowl Warwickshire out cheaply then I think we’d fancy our chances of chasing around 200.

“Luke Wells showed what you can do if you bat time and play with grit and determination. He got 92 and they could be very valuable runs for us.”

Tim Ambrose, the Warwickshire wicketkeeper, said: “We’re 169 ahead and although you have never got enough runs we have already got a score we can bowl at.

“To say batting is difficult is an understatement though, at times it has been nigh on impossible. It has swung on the first two days which has meant there always seems to be a ball with your name on it. If you put enough deliveries in the right areas the pitch will do the rest and it could be that the team who gets more luck will win.”

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