Sussex edge mistake-filled contest
Sussex 289 for 8 v Worcestershire
Perhaps it was nerves, perhaps it was weariness or perhaps it simply explained why both sides are embroiled in the relegation tussle, but the first day of this match was characterised by a succession of errors. The team that emerges triumphant may well be the one that makes the fewest mistakes on the remaining days.
As it is, after day one, both sides will feel they squandered chances to establish a platform in this match. Worcestershire dropped some chances and, through their support bowlers, conceded soft runs, while a succession of Sussex batsmen surrendered their wickets in oddly careless fashion.
Both teams may also feel, however, that they got away with their mistakes. With neither side in the mood to take advantage of the other's errors, honours finished just about even. Perhaps Sussex, 11 short of claiming a third batting bonus point, may feel they just have their noses in front.
That's not to say there was not some fine cricket, however. Alan Richardson was as immaculate as ever and to say Kemar Roach's figures do him a disservice is an understatement. The Bajan barely conceded a run in front of the wicket all day and, with better fortune and better fielders, he could have taken five for 30. Offspinner Moeen Ali bowled tidily, too, though Worcestershire may be somewhat alarmed at the amount of turn he gained to bowl Will Adkin. Anything Moeen can do, Monty Panesar can do quicker.
Sussex, too, had good moments. While Joe Gatting and Murray Goodwin were adding 134 runs in 37 overs for the third wicket, it seemed the visitors would establish a dominant total. Goodwin, in particular, produced some sparkling straight drives and resounding cuts, while Gatting was impressive square of the wicket, but lived dangerously outside off stump. Later Ben Brown produced the most solid batting of the day in registering an impressive half-century.
More than anything, however, this was a day of missed opportunity. Had Daryl Mitchell, for example, not dived in front of Vikram Solanki at first slip and put down a chance offered by Gatting on just eight and had Alexei Kervezee, at point, not put down a straightforward chance offered by Goodwin when he had 44, Worcestershire would have felt far more satisfied. Needless to say, Roach was the unfortunate bowler on both occasions.
But Sussex were equally profligate. Not only did Goodwin chase a cut and edge to slip - where Solanki parried a tough chance high into the air and then dived to catch it - but Gatting steered one he could have left to the keeper before both Matt Prior and Michael Yardy guided the ball to cover as if offering catching practise. It meant Sussex's entire middle-order had self-destructed for the addition of just 53 runs in 15 overs.
Brown, however, stopped the rot. Preferred to Andy Hodd in the side - Hodd has a year remaining on his contract but may, understandably, feel he's a better than second XI cricket - Brown responded with just the innings his side required. Where his colleagues chased balls, he was compact; where they hit in the air, he blocked. And while they watch on from the pavilion in the morning, he'll resume his unbeaten innings.
Earlier Worcestershire claimed two early wickets as Sussex chose to bat in conditions providing the bowlers some assistance. Ed Joyce fell when he moved too far across and was bowled behind his legs, before Chris Nash's expansive drive was defeated by a fine delivery that swung in sharply to leave the visitors on 25 for 2. Later Richardson returned with the new ball to have Amjad Khan caught down the leg side off the glove, while Adkin, stuck on the crease when he should have been forward, lost his off bail to one from Moeen than pitched on middle and spun sharply.
Richardson's wickets took him clear at the top of the Division One table of leading wicket-takers (he has 64), while it's also worth noting that he has bowled more overs (583.2) than any seamer in the division. For a 36-year-old, that is a fantastic effort.
George Dobell is chief writer at Spin magazine