Prior guides Sussex victory
Sussex 240 and 235 for 5 beat Hampshire 206 and 266 by five wickets
Matt Prior warmed up for next week's first Test against India at Lord's by hitting a brilliant unbeaten 97 to guide Sussex to a five-wicket County Championship victory over Hampshire at Hove. Prior's three-hour innings included 12 fours from 167 balls and was a batting masterclass on a sluggish pitch on which run-scoring had been difficult for the previous three days.
Sussex, needing 233 for their fourth championship win of the season, resumed on 82 for 3 and lost Luke Wells in the day's fifth over when Dominic Cork angled a shortish ball across the young left-hander and had him caught at waist height by Neil McKenzie at first slip. Wells had added only five runs to his overnight 29 but, from 105 for 4, Prior and Andrew Hodd at first steadied the innings and then flourished, with Prior the main aggressor and Hodd sensibly content to provide understated support.
Prior, who began the day on 2, was initially severe on Imran Tahir - taking two boundaries from his opening over with a powerful whip through midwicket and then a delicate leg glance. Soon Tahir had been replaced by Danny Briggs at the Sea End, with Cork coming down the Hove slope throughout the opening hour.
An intriguing morning's cricket - with Prior twice pulling savage boundaries off Kabir Ali and Sean Ervine but mainly concentrating on working the ball into the gaps - ended with Sussex at 184 for 4 at lunch. In addition, South Africa legspinner Tahir was removed from the Hampshire attack in the final over of the morning by umpire David Millns, after two previous warnings for running on the pitch.
Hodd's dismissal, bowled by one that kept low from left-arm spinner Briggs in the second over after the interval, gave Hampshire their last chance to embarrass the home side but Prior stood firm and in Ollie Rayner found another staunch partner as they knocked off the remaining runs to clinch victory at 2.23pm.
Prior added 81 with Hodd and then another unbroken 49 with Rayner, who ended up on 22 not out and prevented the England wicketkeeper-batsman from reaching his hundred by hitting the winning boundary to the square third man ropes off Ervine. But Prior was not bothered about that, embracing Rayner in the middle of the pitch as the win was clinched, and it was a magnificent performance as he applied his class to what looked to be a tricky fourth-innings run-chase.
Hampshire, for whom this was a fifth championship defeat in eight matches, remain rooted to the bottom of the division one table. Sussex, by contrast, climb to fourth.