Sublime Styris smashes Sussex through
Sussex 230 for 4 (Styris 100*, Prior 60) beat Gloucestershire 191 for 8 (Housego 47) by 39 runs
The recruitment of overseas players has been a critical aspect of producing success in county cricket since the beginning of the policy. Sussex recruited a Twenty20 specialist in Scott Styris and his blistering 37-ball hundred sent them to their third finals day.
By contrast Gloucestershire, whose signing of Ian Harvey helped them to dominate one-day cricket at the turn of the century, had ageing Sri Lankan spinner Muttiah Muralitharan bowling four overs in the middle of the innings and being a liability in the field. It was his missed run out of Styris when in single figures that proved tremendously costly.
An almighty mix up produced the chance for Muralitharan to take the throw from short fine-leg two yards from the stumps and remove the bails - as he had done in his previous over to run out Matt Prior. But Muralitharan attempted a throw at the stumps, missed, and the Styris rampage began.
It was exactly the innings one expects from a marquee signing and the type of innings that Styris himself admitted was the overseas player's responsibility to play. He did not shy away from his duty. It was fantastic hitting. Such clean ball-striking. The joint-third highest T20 hundred taking only 37 balls.
Styris kicked into gear in the final six overs - all of which went for double figures. Those overs had followed a period during which Gloucestershire's two spinners, Muralitharan and especially Ed Young, bowled well and forced the batsman to work them around - from the end of the Powerplay until the 14th over only three boundaries were scored.
But once the seamers, who, despite an excellent start with two quick wickets had conceded 67 in the Powerplay, returned, it was back to a boundary fest. A match-changing 115 runs came off the final six overs and Styris was responsible for most of it. Nine sixes he struck, the best of them played with a clean face down the ground.
Most of the run scoring was accountable for in T20 cricket but the 18th over from James Fuller was totally inexplicable. Just when Gloucestershire had a chance to build on the work of their spinners, they were taken out of the game. Fuller has the tools - a solid action and pace - to become a fine bowler but his character will be severely tested after this humiliation.
He began with a beamer that went for six no-balls. Then overstepped bowling a yorker which was edged for four to fine leg. The free hit was a full toss which went over square leg - that brought up Styris' 50 from 24 balls. Another full toss followed: another six, this time down the ground, before a back of a length ball was carved fine of third man for four more.
Mercifully for Fuller a dot ball relieved the carnage but there was more to come. A top-edged pull went to fine leg for four and then, as the Sussex fans pointed their thumbs down for the kill, Styris smashed another six over long on. 38 had come off the over - the most runs in an over in professional cricket.
The final two overs went for 14 and 19 but seemed run-of-the-mill after Fuller's annihilation. It completed Sussex's sixth score above 200 this season. It was also the highest score in the competition this year.
It was hard to reflect on anything but Styris' second T20 hundred, reached in the final over with the help of two more sixes. But there were other demonstrations of the batting talent that has made Sussex so successful this season. Some of it was provided by Matt Prior - again demonstrating his one-day credentials - with his own brutal innings. He made 60 in 38 balls having gone hell for leather to recover Sussex's terrible start.
They were 7 for 2 after two overs but Prior swung at almost every ball, blasting Gloucestershire's young seamers all around the park, playing two deliciously timed sweeps over midwicket, to ensure the momentum was regained and the Powerplay maximised - they made 67 for 2: 60 from four overs. And they had the perfect foil for the hitters: Goodwin, who made a completely overshadowed 55.
Gloucestershire were in a hopeless position trying to chase such a score. They do hold the world-record for the highest T20 domestic total but that was made last year with a Kevin O'Brien hundred. This year they lack a major hitter and as useful as the cameos from Hamish Marshall, Dan Housego and Alex Gidman were for an ordinary innings, it was not the freakish batting that was needed.
Styris also took a wicket and a run out to conclude an evening that had the Sussex management patting their backs on a rather good recruitment decision.
Alex Winter is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo