Red-hot Coles sets Sussex on road to County Championship win over Gloucestershire
Coles’ third century of the County Championship season was the feelgood story of the day at Hove, with the 19-year-old batsman making his mark ahead of a winter where he is tipped for national team honours.
Sussex chairman Jon Filby hinted during an interview with BBC Radio Sussex that he felt Coles was in strong contention for the next England Lions tour, which could be of India in February.
Elsewhere, it was a day of reflection and planning for Sussex, with head coach Paul Farbrace announcing the news that bowler Chris Wright will no longer be joining the club from Leicestershire due to family reasons.
With the fallout of a club members’ forum on day two clear to see, it led to speculation off the field on who might be brought in, distracting slightly from another brilliant batting display.
Indeed, it was one of the best days that Sussex had enjoyed all season with willow in hand, with Coles’ 128 off 158 balls, Oli Carter’s 49 from 84 and Fynn Hudson-Prentice’s rapid 71 from 35 all punishing sorry Gloucestershire.
It all contributed to a lead of 512 when captain Tom Alsop finally declared on 505-7, with Leicestershire’s close attempt at a similar chase a fortnight ago undoubtedly playing on Sussex's minds.
Nonetheless, a scintillating start was made when Sean Hunt removed both openers cheaply, Brad Currie had star man James Bracey caught in the slips and two more middle-order wickets fell to leave Gloucestershire 110-5, with 400 more runs needed to win.
All this was a great surprise considering how sedate the Hove pitch seemed to be early on day three.
Returning from overnight scores of 46 and 51 respectively, Alsop and Coles set out to respect a troublesome pitch and some murky overheads.
In stark contrast to their assault the previous evening, the batsmen took until the 17th over of the day to find their first boundary. When they did, Alsop peppered the leg side beautifully.
Fours off Zafar Gohar and Ollie Price got things going for the crowd before Gloucestershire had something of their own to cheer – a breakthrough with the new ball.
After a 155-run fourth-wicket stand, Alsop took on a delivery that swung in just enough from Josh Shaw and found the hands of Zaman Akhter at short mid-wicket to depart for 79.
Alsop subsequently held the baton for Sussex’s highest Championship run-scorer of the season with 820, but with fellow contenders Coles and Fynn Hudson-Prentice still having time, the innings turned into an in-house contest.
Coles needed time to get going, only scoring his first boundary of the day in the 27th over, but soon found his flow. A 79-run partnership with Oli Carter included the moment Coles made his century from 134 balls, and while the 19-year-old had survived a drop from Zafar at deep fine leg on 93, it was an otherwise classy and chanceless innings.
With Carter’s dismissal on 49 seeing Hudson-Prentice join the party, it soon became a two-horse race between the sixth-wicket partners, with Hudson-Prentice cutting and driving his way through the gears.
The all-rounder was the chief architect of a spell of 12 overs that saw 108 runs scored during the afternoon session, and when Coles got out for 134 in the penultimate over of that sequence it was Hudson-Prentice’s race to lose.
A half-century arrived from 26 balls via a six off the downtrodden Zaman Akhter (1-123) and confirmed Hudson-Prentice had surpassed all challengers, eventually reaching 879 runs for the season with his 71 not out.
While the pitch had been of no danger to the Sussex batsmen, it then became a minefield for Gloucestershire’s. Hunt pinned Chris Dent LBW in the fourth over with a ball that kept low, while fellow opener Ben Charlesworth followed after tea, prodding Hunt into the slips for a one-handed catch by Tom Clark.
Brad Currie then exploited some swing to have Bracey excellently caught at the third attempt by third slip Jack Carson, while first innings top-scorer Miles Hammond was caught behind by Carter off the bowling of Hudson-Prentice.
At 48-4, the highest scorer on the Gloucestershire card was still the extras column, which read 16. Van Buuren at least changed that fact by playing expansively for his unbeaten 46, while Ollie Price took the sting out of the Sussex attack with a durable stay at the crease.
When Hunt had Price adjudged LBW on 22, Sussex had the key fifth wicket before bad light brought on the spinners and eventually forced the end of the day.
Yet with Sussex leading by 401 and just five more Gloucestershire wickets remaining, few around Hove were without smiles.
Chief amongst those with reasons to be cheerful was Hudson-Prentice, who discussed his batting contributions this season after the day’s play.
“It’s obviously really good to get past 50 nine times,” said Hudson-Prentice. “It’s been a good season for me with the bat, and I would’ve liked to have contributed a few more big scores to get us more wins but you can’t have it all.”
The quickfire nature of Hudson-Prentice’s innings was certainly a factor in getting Gloucestershire batting earlier, and there was a key piece of advice that he reflected on afterwards.
“[Paul Farbrace] said be positive – but I don’t think he meant to be that positive,” said Hudson-Prentice. “When I started striking it clean, I thought I’d just keep going. It seemed to come off for me; even my mishits were going into gaps, so it’s just one of those days.”
As the match also marked the occasion of Hudson-Prentice receiving his county cap, the 27-year-old was full of praise for his home county.
He said: “To be able to contribute to this season massively myself, but [also] be given something by the club in recognition of your services on and off the field is really good.”