Sussex – 202 and 505-7 (declared)
Gloucestershire – 195 and 113-5
Sussex have victory in their sights after a commanding penultimate day of their final County Championship fixture of the season against Gloucestershire.
Teenager James Coles hit an exemplary century as the hosts declared on 505-7.
Staring down a heavy deficit, Gloucestershire lost five wickets for only 113 runs in their 34 overs at the crease.
In a lethal opening spell, seamer Sean Hunt trapped Chris Dent lbw before dismissing Ben Charlesworth with an out-swinging delivery, caught at second slip by an ecstatic Tom Clark.
In the day’s dying light, Hunt returned to claim his third – Ollie Price judged lbw after shouldering arms to a straight delivery. Leaking only 19 runs for his three wickets, the 21-year-old bowled neatly throughout.
Fynn Hudson-Prentice and Brad Currie also got in on the evening session fun. The former found the fine edge of Miles Hammond while the latter tempted James Bracey into a rash drive which found the hands of Jack Carson at third slip.
It’s been a barren season for former England man Bracey. Despite going big in the one-day cup, the 26-year-old averaged only 22.33 in the County Championship, failing to bag a hundred in any of his 13 appearances.
By contrast, Coles’s century was a masterclass in red-ball batting. From four hours at the crease, the all-rounder smoked 128 runs which included 10 fours and three colossal sixes.
Coles’s ton was his third of an impressive season in which the 19-year-old notched 849 runs at an average of 44.45.
He was supported in the morning session by Oli Carter. After a steady start, keeper-bat Carter upped the ante after lunch.
Having hooked Zaman Akhter for a monstrous maximum in the 104th over, Carter set his sights on the spin, reverse-sweeping tweaker Zafar Gohar for six in the 107th. His innings would end soon after, however. One away from fifty, Carter was caught on the boundary attempting another audacious reverse-sweep the very next ball.
With a declaration in mind, Sussex went in search of quick runs. From only 42 balls, Coles and new man Hudson-Prentice combined for 68 blistering runs. The latter was especially brutal, blasting 71 runs from only 35 balls.
In the 113th over, he danced down the pitch to dispatch Ollie Price for six with an elegant straight drive. He then swept, reverse swept and drove the following three balls for four in a relentless onslaught.
Another highlight of Hudson-Prentice’s barbaric bow came against Akhter, whom he pulled high over the leg-side boundary to claim a ninth half-century of the season from only 26 balls.
Despite batting at an even tempo throughout, Coles unselfishly joined his partner on the warpath – unleashing a variety of conventional and reverse-sweeps before he was caught at mid-on attempting to swat Josh Shaw back over his head.
Jack Carson then came and went for nine – bowled by Akhter, before captain Tom Alsop declared, leaving Sussex over 150 overs to dismiss the visitors.
Alsop’s was the only other Sussex wicket to fall on day three. Beginning the day on 46, he battled through the first hour before chipping an in-swinging Shaw delivery to Akhter at mid-on.
While not the most colourful knock, Alsop’s 79 solidified Sussex dominance and took the left-hander past 800 red ball runs for the season.
Victory tomorrow would enable Sussex to finish third in Division Two – their best position in five years.
After the close of play, Fynn Hudson Prentice said: “There’s been a lot of progress this season. We’ve bossed a lot of games of cricket. There were three or four draws that we should have won. Weather is a factor but so is our performances when bowling in the second innings. We haven’t been good enough.
“We can still get better with the ball. Everyone knows that we sometimes aren’t quite on it and we do leak a lot of boundaries.
“Cricket’s a funny game and we know how flat Hove can get so you don’t want to count your chickens too soon but hopefully we can get it done nice and early.
“With 879 runs at an average of 48.83, the 27-year-old is Sussex’s top scorer in the 2023 County Championship.
“It’s been really good to get past fifty nine times but not scoring a hundred has also been a bit painful.
“It’s been a good season for me with the bat. I’m happy with it. I’d have liked to have contributed with a few more big scores to get us some wins but you can’t have it all.”
The victory push continues from 10.30am tomorrow at the 1st Central County Ground in Hove.