Middlesex v Sussex
Result: Middlesex (169 and 232) beat Sussex (171 and 175) by 55 runs.
Sussex faltered and Middlesex broke into the race for promotion from the Specsavers County Championship second division with the hosts’ fourth victory in five matches at Lord’s today (Friday 31 August).
Sussex were going for five victories on the spin for the first time since 2006, the year of their second championship success.
The outcome will have given Dawid Malan’s side even greater satisfaction.
Sussex, set 231 for victory, were optimistic about their chances but a lively bowling display earned Middlesex victory before tea on the third day.
Sussex were bowled out for 175 in 44.5 overs.
Middlesex had resumed on 210 for five – 208 ahead – and lost their remaining five wickets for just 22 runs in 10.4 overs and 50 minutes. At that stage all the momentum was with Sussex.
At the start of play Sussex were looking forward to the new ball, which was due five overs into the morning session. But they made a double breakthrough before that.
Malan had added just a single to his overnight 69 when he edged Ollie Robinson to keeper Ben Brown in the second over.
And in the next over James Fuller edged Jofra Archer into the safe hands of Chris Jordan at slip for a duck.
Sussex took the new ball and claimed the remaining three wickets in the space of 12 deliveries. James Harris was lbw to Archer for 26, Ethan Bamber was immediately bowled by Ollie Robinson and Archer wrapped up the innings with this fifth wicket when he had Steven Finn, pulling, caught at short midwicket by Tom Haines.
Sussex suffered an early blow in their chase when Luke Wells lost his off stump to a full length delivery from Bamber for three.
But Phil Salt and Haines had put their side in a good position when, just before lunch, Salt was caught behind off a fine delivery from Fuller.
Sussex needed a couple of decent partnerships to get their target under control but their young batting side struggled against a vigorous Middlesex pace attack.
Middlesex appeared to miss an important catch when Harry Finch, on six, was dropped by Ollie Rayner at second slip – something of a collector’s item from one of the safest pairs of hands in county cricket.
Middlesex, however, bounced back to take two wicket in three balls. Fuller had Haines caught in the gully and then Finn pitched one up to bowl Luke Wright for a duck, giving the former Sussex captain a pair in the match.
Finch, unable to make the most of his reprieve, was lbw to Harris for 20. Sussex still had a chance while their captain and most dependable batsman, Ben Brown, was at the wicket. But once he was sixth out, caught behind at 111, it looked all over for them. And it was, despite a stubborn last wicket stand between David Wiese and Danny Briggs.
Chris Jordan fell to a fine catch behind the wicket, Archer was bowled by a wicked delivery from Bamber, Robinson was run out by Malan and finally Briggs was caught behind.
Sussex captain Ben Brown said: “I’ve not got too many gripes to be honest. That was a pretty tough pitch to bat on. It was always going to be too many today.
“It was one of those surfaces where you were waiting for one to roll along the floor and bowl you. So I’ve got every sympathy for the batters.
“We put up a good fight at the end but realistically I thought the target was going to be too many.
“We’re playing really good cricket at the moment so I’m not going to be distracted by this defeat.
“It’s going to be a really good run-in to the season. We’ve got loads to be excited to in the championship – and a finals day to look forward to as well.”
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