Sussex slip to defeat against Middlesex

Sussex 392 and 335-4d
Middlesex 358 and 370-3
Middlesex won by seven wickets

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.

Sussex coach Ian Salisbury said: “I don’t like losing. I really don’t. But sometimes you have to take a risk to win.

“We knew it was a risk with three bowlers having their first game of the season. And I can’t fault the effort of the guys on a good pitch. They gave absolutely everything. I can’t fault Ollie Robinson as a cricketer.You could see how much effort he out into it today.

“And George Garton is still trying to get his lungs and his heart right after long covid. It was never our intention to bat out our second inning for a draw, which we could have done.”

Middlesex captain Peter Handscomb said: “It was an incredible win, to chase down that big total in 74 overs. We saw the moment there and we took it.

“I think there needs to be conversations about Sam Robson playing for England again. The team looks like it’s going through a restructure and Robbo has been putting it together for three or four years now. We’ve already seen that he can make runs opening for England.”

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