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MATCH REPORT | SUSSEX V MIDDLESEX

Match report provided by the ECB Reporters Network.


DAY FOUR

Middlesex chased down a target of 370 to win their third match in four in the second division of the LV= Insurance County Championship at Hove.

A partnership of 209 in 49 overs between Sam Robson and captain Peter Hanscomb, and then one of 99 between Max Holden and Martin Andersson in 13, saw Middlesex achieve their eighth highest fourth innings total to win a match and leave Sussex – without a win in five games – demoralised. Middlesex got home with 3.1 overs to spare despite being without the injured Robbie Smith and after losing opener Mark Stoneman for one in the second over. Their victory adds an extra frisson to their upcoming fixture against Nottinghamshire at Lord’s.

When the heroic Ollie Robinson dismissed both Handsomb (79) and Robson, whose 149 was his first century since he scored 253 at this ground in September, Sussex still thought they had a chance of at least saving the match.

Robinson returned to the attack at 207 for one and immediately had Hanscomb lbw. At 249 for two Middlesex, needing 121 from 20 overs, were clear favourites. But Robinson, operating in short spells after bowling 24 overs in the first innings, returned again and had Robson lbw.

But then chase was then taken up Holden (80 not out) and Martin Andersson (44 not out) who repeated their form of the first innings.

Sussex, who were 225 for one in the first innings of the match and who played some excellent cricket here, gave Middlesex 77 overs to score their runs. It was a tempting but not a philanthropic declaration. As it was, the home side were handicapped by a number of factors and deserve some sympathy. The pitch was flat, the ball was soft (without the hope of a new ball) and there was a short boundary on the east side of the ground. Also, their declaration calculations were compromised by the considerable time lost to bad light on the third day.

In addition, seamers George Garton and Sean Hunt came into this game with little cricket. And, although he bowled splendidly and took seven wickets in the match, this was also Robinson’s first match in four months. Another problem for Sussex – albeit one of their own making – was that they had to rush through the overs in order to avoid a points penalty. So they had to over-bowl their expensive on-loan leg-sinner Mason Crane

Sussex started the fourth day on 236 for three, with a lead of 270, and immediately there was a pre-declaration urgency about their batting. Cheteshwar Pujara carried on from where he had left off the day before, effortlessly driving the second ball of the morning through the covers for four. Then he twice cut Andersson for boundaries.

His next four would have painful consequences for the Middlesex batsman White. Pujara straight-drove Ethan Bamber and White, diving to stop the ball, was soon writhing in agony. There was a delay of 10 minutes before White was wheeled from the field on a stretcher trolley. A dislocated left shoulder was later diagnosed. Middlesex were also without Shaheen Shah Afridi, who did not take the field after feeling unwell in the morning.

Clark was dropped behind when he inside edged Blake Cullen, with the wicketkeeper going the wrong way. He had moved on to 77 before he was lbw to Luke Hollman. At that stage, at 335 for four, Sussex declared. They had added 99 runs in 17 overs. Pujara remained unbeaten on 170. So in four matches and five completed innings he has scored 717 runs at an average of 143. But, in terms of results, neither he nor Sussex have anything to show for it.


DAY THREE

Cheteshwar Pujara’s fourth century in as many matches – and two of them were doubles – put Sussex in a strong position in their LV= Insurance County Championship match against Middlesex at Hove.

Middlesex had dominated the first half of the third day but then a third wicket partnership of 138 at five an over between Pujara and Tom Alsop, whose run-scoring matched that of the Indian maestro before he was well caught at slip for 66, put Sussex on top and set up the possibility of a declaration and run chase on the final day.

Pujara pulled spinner Mark Stoneman for four to reach 99 and then cut the same bowler through backward-point for three to reach his hundred from 133 balls, with 13 fours and a six. At the close Sussex were 236 for three, a lead of 270, with Pujara 125 not out. Earlier the most important Sussex player was Ollie Robinson, who completed a five-wicket return in his first match for four months.

Middlesex had resumed on 284 for six, still 108 runs in arrears. But after just four overs, and with the new ball available, the players came off for bad light.

When they returned Martin Andersson edged Aaron Beard through the too-wide gap between first and second slips to reach a 92-ball half-century. The opening session was almost 90 minutes old before Sussex broke through, with the last delivery of the 89th over, when Robinson had Andersson caught, low down, by Alsop at first slip. He and the impressive Luke Hollman had put on 99 for the seventh wicket.

The same combination of Robinson and Alsop soon accounted for Blake Cullen and at lunch Middlesex were 335 for eight. Shaheen Shah Afridi clipped Mason Crane to square leg to bring up the 350 and win Middlesex a fourth batting point. But in the next over the same batsman drove Sean Hunt to mid-on but failed to beat Tom Haines’s direct hit. Hunt then removed Hollman’s middle stump as the batsman heaved across the line. Hollman’s obdurate innings had brought him a first-class best 82 and Middlesex, with their upside-down looking scorecard, had made 358 and trailed Sussex by just 34 runs. Robinson, who apart from the first over bowled downhill from the Cromwell Road end for duration of the opening session, finished with figures of 5-66 in 24 overs.

When Sussex batted again, under dark clouds and bright floodlights, they lost both openers without scoring in the first seven balls. At this stage they must have been reminded of their opening game of the season, against Nottinghamshire. Then, they scored 375 and had Notts struggling at 52 for four before going on to lose the match by 10 wickets.

On this occasion, Ali Orr was out second ball, caught behind off Afridi, who surprised the batsman with his pace and bounce. Then, with the first delivery of the next over, Ethan Bamber dismissed Haines, who was also caught by wicketkeeper John Simpson. And Sussex would have been nine for three if Alsop had not been dropped at slip before scoring.

The contest between the prolific Pujara and Afridi was compelling. Pujara uppercut Afridi over third man for six. But then, after just three overs and with the score 15 for two, the players came off for bad light. They were away for just over an hour, in which time they took tea, but with overs lost.

When they returned, Pujara and Tom Alsop, and then Tom Clark, reasserted Sussex’s advantage, though with chunks of time lost to bad light a draw remains a strong possibility.


DAY TWO

Ollie Robinson made an impressive return to action after four months out with three wickets on the second day of Sussex's LV= County Championship match against Middlesex at Hove.

The 28-year-old hasn’t played since January when he suffered back spasms during the Ashes series. An infection delayed his return to domestic action, but he wasted little time in making his presence felt by bowling Sam Robson with his fifth ball before striking again in the first over of both his second and third spells.

Robinson sent down two five-over spells and had another three-over burst after tea to finish with three for 37 overs from as Middlesex replied to Sussex’s 392 with 284 for six before bad light ended play seven overs early.

He made an inauspicious start – his first delivery was a no ball – but after bowling an away-swinger at Robson he moved one back off the seam to knock out off stump as Robson, who made 235 when the teams last met in September, offered no shot.

Robinson returned after lunch to remove Middlesex captain Peter Hanscomb who left a ball which tailed in to hit leg stump before ending a fifth-wicket stand of 130 in 36 overs between Max Holden and John Simpson when an inswinger took out Simpson’s middle stump after he’d made 71, his fourth fifty of the season.

It was an impressive effort by Robinson who was well backed up by the rest of the Sussex attack.

George Garton is also making his first appearance of the season after recovering from long Covid and he picked up a wicket when Mark Stoneman chased a ball he could have ignored and was caught behind.

The left-armer Sean Hunt removed Robbie White with his sixth delivery, although White also went after a ball well wide of off stump and Handscomb’s dismissal left Middlesex in trouble 45 for four.

But Simpson and Holden prospered during the afternoon although Simpson was dropped at extra cover on 31 by Cheteshawar Pujara off leg-spinner Mason Crane’s first ball.

It took a fine delivery from Robinson to separate the two left-handers, but Holden reached his second half-century of the summer which included an upper-cut six off Garton that smashed a window in one of the flats overlooking the ground.

Holden (58) lost his off stump sweeping Crane from outside off stump but Martin Andersson made the most of a reprieve when Hunt dropped him on the mid-wicket boundary on 19. With Luke Hollman he added an unbroken 71 for the seventh wicket, the aggressive Hollman going to his fifty just before the close.

Earlier, Sussex’s last four wickets had fallen in 31 balls for the addition of 29 runs as their first innings ended on 392, which would have been a disappointment after they’d been 246 for two on the first day.

Garton reached a 75-ball fifty before he thick-edged to second slip, the first of two wickets for Martin Andersson whose slower ball foxed Robinson, who drove to long on.

Shaheen Shah Afridi picked up two wickets to finish with three for 97. A searing yorker took out Aaron Beard’s middle and leg stumps while Crane top-edged a hook and was caught at deep mid-wicket.


DAY ONE

Tom Alsop scored his first Sussex hundred and shared a stand of 204 with Ali Orr, who made 99, as Sussex enjoyed the better of day one against Middlesex in the LV= County Championship match at Hove.

Their second-wicket alliance helped the hosts reach 246 for two but then Middlesex took three wickets in seven overs after tea, including the in-form Cheteshwar Pujara for 16, to leave Sussex 273 for five.

Mohammad Rizwan and George Garton counter-attacked impressively against the second new ball, and although Rizwan fell for 31 Sussex reached stumps on 354 for six, having won the toss.

Alsop, who is on a season-long loan from Hampshire, played superbly for the fifth hundred of his career and first since April 2021 as he and Orr responded after Shaheen Shah Afridi had bowled Tom Haines with a beauty which tailed in to knock back the left-hander’s off stump in the ninth over.

Alsop didn’t give a chance and reached his hundred with arguably the pick of his 12 boundaries, a straight drive down the ground off Afridi. He was the more aggressive of the two and seemed in the mood to build a long innings when he frustratingly clipped a ball down the leg side from off-spinner Mark Stoneman to square leg for 113.

It was harder work for Orr, who was dropped on nought and then twice in the same over on 57 and 58. The 21-year-old knuckled down and seemed certain to lodge what would have been only his second first-class hundred when he was drawn into a drive at leg spinner Luke Hollman and was caught at slip in the last over before tea.

That wicket re-energised the Middlesex attack and they had further cause for celebration when they removed Pujara, who came into the game with an aggregate of 531 runs in his first five innings for Sussex. The Indian looked in the mood again, driving his first two balls from Hollman to the boundary before slog-sweeping him for six. It was little wonder that he shook his head in frustration after driving loosely to backward point off Ethan Bamber.

Martin Andersson chipped in with the wicket of Tom Clark, who was shaping up well until he dragged the ball onto his off stump, and when Alsop’s four-hour stay ended Sussex were 273 for five and the new ball was six overs away.

But Garton, playing his first game of the season having recovered from long Covid, and Rizwan ticked along at four an over before Blake Cullen broke through when Rizwan was held head-high at slip by skipper Peter Handscomb playing a forcing shot off the back foot. Garton was unbeaten on 37 at the close.


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MATCH REPORT | SUSSEX V MIDDLESEX

Match report provided by the ECB Reporters Network.

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