Sussex toil but have reasons to be cheerful as Gloucestershire visit Hove

Sussex will take optimism into the weekend after a stop-start Day 1 against Gloucestershire saw them struggle at times but limit the visitors to 319-8, reports Will Hugall.
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Half-centuries from Ben Charlesworth (62), Miles Hammond (56) and James Bracey (69) saw the West Country visitors prosper amidst changeable conditions, with intermittent rain, dark clouds and wind having seemed to favour the bowlers.

No batsman went on to make a huge score, however, and regular wickets for Sussex saw them remain in the contest.

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The hosts could have done even better had Tom Clark and James Coles held catches in the slip cordon, but as it was, the match was finely poised at the close.

Jayden Seales | Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty ImagesJayden Seales | Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images
Jayden Seales | Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images

In a contest between teams that are expected to compete at different ends of the table this season, Sussex looked to force home their advantage on paper as they won the toss and chose to field.

This looked a wise call with the forecast showing Saturday and Sunday as the two best days of weather, but under murky clouds, Sussex’s strike bowlers were frustrated early on.

Ollie Robinson enjoyed an excellent battle with former Australia opener Cameron Bancroft, with the two living up to their billing as the match’s star attractions as they traded blows.

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Bancroft’s fast start forced John Simpson to look for other options, and when the medium pace of all-rounder Danny Lamb was introduced, the breakthrough surprisingly came.

In his third over, Lamb wrapped Bancroft on the pads and saw off the Gloucestershire lynchpin for 27 runs from 41 balls.

Ollie Price did not last long, with the young Englishman edging to Tom Clark at second slip for a lovely low catch.

Stand-in opener Ben Charlesworth then steered Gloucestershire through the rest of the morning session, latching on like a limpet to see the visitors safely through to lunch at 82-2.

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When play resumed following a 45-minute post-lunch rain delay, the battle between bat and ball remained electric.

Jayden Seales was disappointed as Tom Clark dropped a relatively simple chance with Miles Hammond on 17, while Ollie Robinson was even less fortunate against the Gloucestershire man.

In three separate overs, Hammond survived an LBW shout, nearly chopped onto his stumps and then wafted at a shorter ball and was millimetres away from edging to Simpson.

Hammond and Charlesworth wrestled back control by piercing the close Sussex field for several boundaries, although Lamb and Fynn Hudson-Prentice drew more chances from the pair with an LBW claim and a Charlesworth shot that fell just short of Clark in the slips.

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After another brief rain delay, the batsmen played more confident strokes, with Charlesworth the first to reach his half-century off 117 balls with a beautifully timed pull on the leg side for six.

Hammond followed with a delicate single off Jack Carson to bag his 50; a score Sussex looked thoroughly miffed to have conceded.

As the afternoon session was extended to make up for earlier rain, though, finally Sussex had their man.

Carson was bowling beautifully and squared Hammond up with a straight delivery that turned just enough to pin the 28-year-old LBW, making it 167-3.

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That proved to be a vital breakthrough too, as Charlesworth’s wicket followed in the very next over.

Seales returned to draw a nibble from the opener, and Simpson took the catch behind the stumps to spark huge Sussex celebrations.

Gloucestershire’s two best batsmen, James Bracey and captain Graeme van Buuren, were then brought to the crease to steady the ship.

This they did until tea, but the continuation of intermittent clouds and maleficent wind kept the hosts hungry for further inroads.

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While the evening session began with van Buuren and Bracey getting off to a quick start against Seales and Lamb, the return of Robinson shook things up entirely, with both batsmen rocked by the England man.

Bracey benefited from the second dropped catch of the day, as James Coles shelled the ball at chest height and looked distraught with his error.

Van Buuren did not get such luck and was punished for a momentary blip as he mistimed a delivery from Hudson-Prentice and was pinned plumb LBW on 26.

As the light began to fade and Sussex dropped behind the over rate, they then returned to Carson for a spell of crafty spin.

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The 23-year-old showed why he is so hotly tipped for future England honours by stemming the runs well, particularly when responding to Bracey’s huge six early in his spell.

With Tom Price trying to join in on the attack, the all-rounder fell on his sword by playing and missing to a sumptuous ball from Carson that spun in late to send the bails flying.

This restored Sussex’s optimism in the pitch and the match situation, finally presenting them with the Gloucestershire tail, but the visitors had the last laugh of the day.

Bracey showed his class – and why he is determined to force his way back into England contention whilst still only 26 years old – by selecting the right balls to attack, moving quickly to the day’s top score.

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Zafar Gohar showed confidence and industry too, chewing through 60 balls for his 23 not out.

In a late twist, though, Bracey threw away a fine position as he was pinned LBW by a tireless Seales, who in his 22nd over of the day reached figures of 2-68.

Dom Goodman was then out second ball as he feathered a Danny Lamb delivery through to Tom Alsop at first slip without scoring.

Gohar and Zaman Akhter saw the visitors through the close, though, setting up a Saturday where Sussex know they will have to bat long and big.

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Speaking after the close, Sussex spinner Jack Carson said: “It’s probably even at the end of the day.

“They got off to a bit of a flyer, and I thought we battled through and to have them eight down at the end of the day is a pretty good effort.

“We stuck at it well and got our rewards towards the end of the day.”

Asked about the impact of John Simpson and Danny Lamb since joining the club, Carson was full of praise.

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“They got 300 runs between them last week and Lamby was brilliant today, changing the game with the early wickets and he kept running in. He’s a really good character,” he said.

“Simmo as well of course; so much experience. We saw again today, he’s quality with the gloves as well.”

Finally, on Sussex’s task tomorrow, Carson said: “We’ve got to bowl well, bowl in the right areas and not go looking for it too much. Then we’ll get our batting heads on, and bat big.

“We’ve done well in the first two games, but with the Dukes ball, the first 20 or 30 overs can be tough. But I’m sure the batters will give it a good go.”

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