County Cricket - Steelbacks do half the job and come up short

Stephen Peters
Stephen Peters

IT all looked so promising at tea time.

A more than satisfactory stint in the field had provided the Steelbacks with a good chance of putting a positive number in the wins column.

And halfway through their innings the odds were still in their favour but, as has happened too often in the recent past, it all fell apart.

And the outcome was a 12-run defeat that was the cricketing equivalent of a kick in the teeth.

With Luke Wright and Ed Joyce helping themselves to some pretty average fare in the opening overs, a substantial score looked on the cards.

Wright, making his first appearance of the summer for Sussex after a stint in the Indian Premier League, was the chief aggressor in his bustling bottom-handed manner with Joyce supplying more elegant support.

They weren’t troubled and rattled along at seven an over and it took the introduction of spin to alter the balance.

Joyce’s rash reverse sweep in James Middlebrook’s first over had the effect of putting the brakes on, a state of affairs exaggerated when Matt Machan and Murray Goodwin fell in the same Lee Daggett over.

Joe Gatting didn’t last long before Con de Lange pierced his defence and when Wright, who had passed 50 and was in complete control, mindlessly picked out long-on, half of the order had gone in less than half the overs available.

Even with time to play with, the visitors’ approach continued to be frenetic and this played into de Lange’s hands as he snared both Ben Brown, trapped in front, and Will Beer from a return catch.

Michael Yardy was at least showing a bit of nous but when Daggett got one through that kept low, the end of the innings was nigh.

Amjad Khan became Daggett’s fourth victim and this created the surreal scenario of Monty Panesar – the number 11’s number 11 – taking guard for the batting powerplay which, unsurprisingly, produced next to nothing.

The first few exchanges aside, the hosts had bowled well enough to take advantage of the two-paced, up and down, nature of the used surface.

And this was where any difficulties in the reply would be found, especially with a trio of spinners in opposition.

The first of these, Yardy, got rid of David Willey in the third over as he backed away to try and force through the off side and the task wasn’t made any easier when Kyle Coetzer fell to Wright’s first delivery.

Although the scoring was far from fluent, the required rate didn’t necessitate it and Stephen Peters and David Sales were able to go about their business in relative comfort.

But with the boundary hard to find with no pace on the ball, Peters’ attempts to force the issue ended with him chipping to long-off.

Sales reached his half century as the equation reached 70 from the last 10 overs but his departure, followed by Middlebrook’s to the next ball, tipped the scales in the Shark’s favour.

The batting powerplay, taken with seven overs left, loomed as the decisive period and the one element in the Steelbacks’ favour was that six overs would be bowled by seamers.

White, who had scratched around, finally found the middle of the bat with a pair of sixes off Chris Liddle but the left-armer redeemed himself in the penultimate over, seeing off White and Hall as the target drifted out of reach.