Recent Match Report – Sussex vs Notts Division 2 2022

Nottinghamshire 214 for 5 (Mullaney 79*, James 63) trail Sussex 375 (Clark 100, Patterson-White 5-84) by 161 runs

Steven Mullaney is far too respectful a professional to say so publicly but his chief thought in asking Sussex to bat first on the opening morning of this match was that his fine attack could use an April-fresh pitch to trample on a weakened batting line-up, thus creating an immediate victory opportunity. 148 plays 110-1 at the end of the day might have been something like the line-score he envisaged. Well, Burns – both Rabbie and Rory after the latest Ashes series – could have advised one of Warrington’s more famous sons that such schemes “gang aft agley”, an observation that might not have enlightened Mullaney greatly, unversed as he surely is in late 18th century Scots. “Tits up” probably carries greater resonance in the Trent Bridge dressing room.

Such a brusque verdict is too harsh an assessment of the first day’s play at Hove but by this second afternoon with the floodlights on and the ball seaming around, some variety of utter balls-up was suddenly more likely. For at that point Nottinghamshire’s skipper had seen Sussex make 375 in their first innings before his own team shambled to a miserable 53 for 4 in reply with their marquee players in the pavilion, two of them removed by the 33-year-old debutant, Steven Finn. Mullaney, though, has always been a scrapper as well as a leader and he was joined in a rescue operation by the highly regarded Lyndon James, who, as a Nottinghamshire-born Nottinghamshire batsman would probably earn you 500pts or so in The Observer’s Book of Cricketers>.

This pair’s 108-run stand for the fifth wicket took the innings deep into the evening session and was distinguished just as much for its quiet obduracy – the shots they eschewed – as the two sixes Mullaney pulled into the stand off Jamie Atkins. But when James had made a poised 63, he top-edged a pull off Finn, Oli Carter completed his third catch and it was left to Tom Moores to help his captain take the visitors to 214 for 5 at the close.

Yet as the sun finally came out one was left more with a sense of Sussex’s merits than Nottinghamshire’s deficiencies. Though Tom Haines’ bowlers flagged a little in the last hour as they struggled for success with an old ball, their achievements in the first half of this game were considerable. Even a relatively quiet morning’s play had given the home side useful rewards for their labours. True, Nottinghamshire took the last four Sussex wickets, but by the time Henry Crocombe was leg before to Liam Patterson-White five minutes before the scheduled luncheon interval Sussex had a fine total on the board. They had also taken one more bonus point from the first innings of this match than Nottinghamshire and you would have got decent odds against that on Thursday morning. The moment of the session was unquestionably provided by Tom Clark, whose pushed single to backward point off Patterson-White took him to his maiden first-class century, a moment he celebrated with great exuberance in the company of Archie Lenham, his batting partner.

Too exuberantly, perhaps. Two balls later James angled the ball between the 20-year-old’s bat and pad, thereby leaving him to reflect that some batters regard reaching a century as just a staging post in their innings. That said, your first hundred is a significant achievement and Clark is nothing like the first player to get out before they had given much thought to starting again. Perhaps the scorecard should read: Clark ct Gottaton b James 100. He joins a long list of rueful batters while James adds his name to a host of grateful bowlers.

Still Sussex were not done. Finn’s third scoring shot for his new county was a pulled six off James and Lenham’s quietly useful 24 was only ended by a brilliant diving catch by Ben Slater on the long leg boundary. That gave Luke Fletcher his only wicket but his figures of 1 for 96 were not harsh; rather they recalled the blustery, sun-soaked riot of Thursday morning when the good ship Luke was blown off course by the stiff westerly. Neither were Patterson-White’s 5 for 84 particularly generous but they did make one wonder when a spinner had last bowled 45.1 overs in April in England.

Sussex’s emboldened bowlers were quick to make inroads after lunch. Slater had faced just four balls before his ugly jab to his fifth, a delivery slanted across him from Crocombe, only edged the ball into his leg stump. Finn then took his first and second wickets for his new county in the space of 18 deliveries when he shaped the ball away to both Haseeb Hameed and Joe Clarke. Hameed remained crease-bound whereas Clarke pushed forward a little more culpably. It made little difference to the outcomes. Carter did the necessary behind the stumps and Sussex were 39 for 3 in 11 overs. Haines and his players, nine of whom are Academy products, celebrated each wicket with modest mayhem.

Throughout it all, Ben Duckett had batted in a manner of his own devising, one seemingly at odds with his colleagues’ difficulties. There was a pulled six into the members’ enclosure off Crocombe and a beautifully timed back cut off Finn. However, having spent less than an hour making 31 runs, the Nottinghamshire left-hander played a horrid flat-footed slash to a ball from Atkins and Tom Alsop took his first slip catch for Sussex.

Things look a trifle brighter for the visitors this evening but their deficit is still 161 and even parity would amount to modest glory for this Sussex team. Clearly Nottinghamshire will need to bowl and bat more capably in the second half of his game. If not, there remains a strong likelihood that, in the language of British military radio, this whole contest could go tango uniform for them.

Sussex’s supporters, though, might allow themselves a tentative celebration. For it is Friday evening in Brighton. The pier is already bedizened for summer, the Channel is calm, and no doubt the lager is slipping down quite nicely in The Blind Busker.

Paul Edwards is a freelance cricket writer. He has written for the Times, ESPNcricinfo, Wisden, Southport Visiter and other publications

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