Today is one of those delightful days in the fixtures when I am spoilt for choice from my membership counties – do I choose Surrey v Hants or Essex v Sussex? Well, given that I planned to see Sussex on Saturday but didn’t (I’m not freezing my ***** off at Lord’s unless I have to!) and saw Hampshire on Sunday (and they lost!); Surrey are not performing in this competition that well so the better game looked to be Essex v Sussex and so it turned out to be.
Already, and we haven’t reached the end of April, this is my eighth day of a possible 11 watching first class or one day cricket. The missing three were due to a) repairing the outcome of my accidental indoor water feature and b) the aforesaid cold. As Steve James in The Times today says, 30 years ago today saw the end of the first round of Championship matches whereas today, the first class season is over a month old!
Anyway, today also gives me a chance to savour the cakes/pastries offering from the Cloudfm County Ground (and if you ever wondered, Cloudfm are a facilities management company, not a radio station or IT storage organisation!) and I have to say that the lemon curd muffin is probably as good as it gets!
After an hour Essex are 91/2 off 16 having won the toss and again only one captain ‘interviewed’ at the toss – it’s as if the other side doesn’t exist! Westley and Lawrence set about rebuilding after two wickets fell in 70s , Chopra looked ill at ease and Cook (Sir A) chopped outside off stump played on for 36 – probably his best one day score of the season. Sussex looked indifferent to start with but when Garon and Sakande came on as first change they made it look like a different game. Essex 300 should be on but…
Sixty minutes later and the hundred partnership is passed as Essex reach 175/2 off 32 overs, Westley 61no Lawrence 42no. The Taco offer of 300plus looks on the cards (see blog re Essex v Hampshire for all the gastronomic Taco delights!). The Sussex bowling seems a little off colour compared to the annihilation of Middlesex at Lord’s on Saturday but who knows?
As the innings progresses, there is a theme developing. Middlesex seem to have a contest going as to who has the best facial hair or can grow the same whereas here in Chelmsford (and among Sussex in particular) it seems to be how has the best hairstyle. I’ll leave it to readers to decide!
After 50 overs, Essex make 283/7 – the loss of wickets really slowed the scoring rate considerably and the general consensus is that Essex are at least 20 short. Walter gave it some ‘welly’ in the last match but here seemed ineffective – am not sure why he’s in the side – opened the batting in the Somerset game, middle order welly and a couple of overs against Hampshire and here…? This uncertainty over his role seems to be playing on his confidence – as we’ve seen before this game is more mental than physical! The innings crawled along for several overs and the scoring rate dropped, Essex seemed wary of losing more wickets whilst the bowling did sharpen up a tad – all leading to what is probably a below par score.
The pitch…greener than seen elsewhere (and the same pitch as used on Sunday) seems to be playing slower than expected. And how they’ve achieved such greenery given the lack of rain in recent weeks is miraculous as is the lushness of the outfield.
A good crowd including a few from the South Coast have turned out for a work day but looking around I doubt if many of the crowd actually have jobs to go to…the demographics point towards the mature end of the population distribution; where do all these ‘grumpy old people’ go when there’s no cricket to watch? The ECB should really seek a subsidy from the DWP for keeping so many old folk cared for during the summer!
Sussex one hour in are 91/4 off 17 and 40 behind Duckworth. Wright the one day specialist’s gone for 30 and Garton – billed as a hope for England fast bowling future – up the order and goes for a career best 38. Wiese and Evans start to rebuild. Tight bowling and good fielding by Essex mean they have this match by the throat and if results go their way it makes the table very interesting with six of nine teams in contention for the wiredly named 6-team quarter finals. But there’s a way to go as yet.
At two hours, Sussex are 167/6 Beer 28no Evans 48no off 32 overs and only 40 or so behind the Duckworth at 203. They’ve rebuilt the innings after a mini collapse (Wiese went for 1 in a flash, and not a hair of his mullet out of place) about an hour ago when Essex and in particular Coles struck leaving Sussex at 94/6. The odds favour Essex but the required rate and comparisons look much more even; the loss of wickets is the issue for Sussex but if they can make hay against the fifth bowling pair of Lawrence and Walter then who knows? All still to play for!
And so it was! The Sussex pair of Beer and Evans slowly caught up with the Duckworth score which hardly changed for many overs such was the progress that they made. The strategy from Essex was to break the 7th wicket at all costs and assume that the rest will collapse like the proverbial cards; but it was not to be! The key bowlers were used in trying to break through and whilst the Sussex innings was becalmed for a time (just as Essex had been at about the same time), they eventually progressed – they stuck to their guns like terriers (if you’ll excuse the mixed metaphor) – to within touching distance.
The new format scoreboard could have been an issue since with 10 overs to go, only those with the internet could see that six of those would have to be bowled by the ‘fifth’ bowler or a new one – the new scoreboard not registering the details in its current format! Eventually even the remaining details were erased from the screen to be replaced by a simple countdown of runs and balls – perhaps Essex authorities regard the game as too complex for its thousands of members and paying public to understand and need to simplify things! (Now where have I heard that marketing idea before…?).
Sussex move from 215/7 off 42, to 245/8 off 44 and then 260/9 off 46 – all very tense and with the last few batsmen not renowned for their batting skills, it was still Essex’s game to grab but Sussex and Briggs (or the Brigadier as the Sussex faithful, who grew in number but I suspect more likely grew in confidence and voice as the innings progressed and tended to be somewhat overawed earlier in the day by the one-eyed approach of the Essex faithful) held firm and with seven needed off the last over – which had to be bowled by Lawrence as all of the ‘top four’ had finished their quota sometime earlier – he and Hamza steered them home.
The Brigadier making 37no but Coles was awarded the ‘Essex man of the match’ – seemingly as far as Essex are concerned their is only one side playing this game of two teams! That’s worked so well, that after six of their eight games, Essex are languishing in 7th place and out of contention for this trophy this season.
Hampshire seem to be on course for the next phase, whilst any two of Somerset, Sussex, Gloucester and Middlesex are in with a chance – the key clash will be Middlesex v Somerset tomorrow!
But as far as muffins vs pastries is concerned or who has the best hairstyle…well, that’s open to continued debate and discovery as the season progresses!