Sussex v Yorkshire: Champions struggle

Ryan Sidebottom finished day three at Hove with figures of 1-39 off 15 overs.Ryan Sidebottom finished day three at Hove with figures of 1-39 off 15 overs.
Ryan Sidebottom finished day three at Hove with figures of 1-39 off 15 overs.
THIS was not a day that will live in the memory.

The only time spectators were sat on the edge of their seats was when the action began at 2pm after heavy rain, and then only out of necessity as the seats were soaking wet.

You could call it “a day for the connoisseur”, but that would be to slip into the type of tired cliche used to describe any day of Championship cricket not entirely thrilling.

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Rather like a long-forgotten planning application or the minutes of a county council meeting, it was a day to take its place in the annals of obscurity.

Not that this was any reflection on the cricketers themselves.

As one would expect from a Sussex side battling relegation and a Yorkshire team chasing the title, there was plenty of hustle and bustle and fierce determination, not to mention some rapid run-scoring.

The problem was the pitch.

It has been a poor advert for four-day cricket, and, barring a most unexpected turn of events, it seems set to stymie Yorkshire – which, perhaps, was the intention all along.

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At stumps, Sussex were 
493-7 in reply to Yorkshire’s 494, and with the forecast poor for the final day, a draw is the overwhelming favourite.

Even if there is a will among the captains to try to concoct a positive result, that could not be achieved if the square is covered, which is what the meteorologists are effectively suggesting.

Sussex would probably take that state of affairs given that they had Yorkshire to play in two of their last four games, but it is ironic that the hosts found themselves in hot water earlier this season for the liveliness of their surfaces and yet dull ones such as this are not penalised by administrators.

All of which means Yorkshire are set to be denied in their pursuit of a seventh successive Championship victory, the first time they would have achieved that since 1946.

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It is a minor detail in their seemingly inevitable march to a second successive title, but it would have been a nice feather in the cap.

Instead, Yorkshire can content themselves with the fact they are set to stretch their unbeaten record this summer to eight wins and four draws, and that the title is theirs in everything but name.

With four games to go and a match in hand on their rivals, the only question appears to be when they will lift the coveted prize.

Although the pitch has been poor, credit must go to Sussex for the way they have fought with the bat.

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Scoreboard pressure might still have done for a lesser side, but Sussex not only managed to get past the follow-on mark of 345 but to progress to maximum batting points – only the third team to achieve that feat against Yorkshire this season after Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge and Somerset at Taunton.

Yorkshire, for their part, missed out on maximum points on Saturday when they fell seven runs shy at 393-6 at the 110-over cut-off point.

Again, it was a minor detail, Gary Ballance (165) and Tim Bresnan (78) leading the way with the bat as the pair added 197 in 53 overs – the fourth-highest seventh-wicket stand in Yorkshire’s history.

Sussex’s reply, which began straight after lunch on day two, was given early impetus by captain Ed Joyce, who scored exactly 100 before he was one of three victims for Adil Rashid as the hosts closed on 175-4.

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Any hopes that Rashid could continue yesterday from where he left off, however, were thwarted by the morning rain and then by the increasingly placid surface.

When the sun broke through during the afternoon, batting looked as easy as it is ever likely to look against a strong Yorkshire attack, which toiled away to little avail. Twenty-nine overs were lost before the action began, and Sussex lost only one wicket in advancing from their overnight total to 283-5 at tea.

Ollie Robinson, the nightwatchman, drove Liam Plunkett to Glenn Maxwell in the gully, having made 48 from 84 balls with seven fours.

Robinson added 97 in 33 overs with Michael Yardy, who began the day on seven and went on to a fine half-century from 123 balls with six fours.

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After tea, Luke Wright drove Plunkett to the boundary to pass 6,000 first-class runs and then struck Steve Patterson for six over square-leg towards the pavilion.

Patterson had his revenge when he bowled Wright next ball, leaving the hosts 326-6.

Ben Brown and Yardy hastened Sussex to maximum points, Yardy reaching his fifth first-class century against Yorkshire from 200 balls and Brown his fifty from just 40 deliveries.

Yardy was pinned by Ryan Sidebottom for 124, ending a stand of 135 in 22 overs with Brown, who finished on 106 after being dropped on 65 at square-leg by Patterson off Rashid.