Styris pleased after 'having a dip' at ton
Scott Styris, the former New Zealand allrounder, has described his 37-ball hundred in Sussex's FLt20 quarter-final victory over Gloucestershire as one of his "better" innings - which is perhaps underselling the joint third-fastest ton in the history of Twenty20 cricket.
Styris hit five fours and nine sixes to finish on 100 not out, his second T20 century, as Sussex totalled 230 for 3, the highest score in this season's tournament. Sussex have been in formidable form, losing just once in the South Group (and only after securing top spot), and progressed with a 39-run win despite being 3 for 2 early on.
Matt Prior - who hit 60 off 38 balls - and Murray Goodwin rapidly rebuilt, before Styris blew Gloucestershire away. He was particularly cruel on James Fuller, who conceded 38 off the 18th over, striking three fours and three sixes in between a couple of no-balls, though Styris said he only noticed the hundred was a possibility at the start of the final over, when he was on 85. Two sixes off Liam Norwell's first two balls helped him get there with room to spare.
Styris, who is playing for his fourth county, will now get the chance to appear in his first Finals Day, on August 25, and he was understandably pleased with the knock that took Sussex through.
"I'm sure it's up there with some of the better ones I've played," Styris said, "it's always nice in a knockout game to put on a good score and help your team win. I'm looking forward to Finals Day, I haven't been there before, and hopefully it's a chance to win a trophy.
"Even at 3 for 2, Matt Prior came out and played really well and put us back on track. At one point we were thinking that we should only get 160-180 but thankfully the hitting at the end enabled us to get a score that was well above par.
"I didn't even realise I was close to the hundred until it was the last over, when I saw I was on 85. Only about then I thought I'll give it a bit of a dip to see if I can get there."
Styris is now out in front in the race for the Walter Lawrence Trophy - for the fastest hundred scored in the English season - but the 37-year-old was keen to credit his Sussex team-mates for their T20 success.
"Our front three have been particularly good in this tournament and got us off to flying starts," he said. "Murray Goodwin has put in performances as well, Chris Liddle with the ball, so we've had six, seven or eight guys who have been outstanding pretty much the whole way through and that's meant we've won a lot of games but also dominated a lot of games too."
Styris retired from internationals in 2011 and has not played first-class cricket since 2010 and believes he has become better at T20 since dedicating himself to the shortest form of the game. While other players have to adjust their training between the formats - there was a round of County Championship matches between the FLt20 group stage and the quarter-finals - Styris "can just stand there and practice hitting the ball out of the ground, which is obviously a lot more fun too".
Having experienced T20 cricket around the world, as well as with several counties going back to 2005, Styris suggested that the English competition in its current incarnation could do with "sprucing up". But he argued that spreading out games, rather than playing in a dedicated block, would deter overseas players from participating, as well as prevent teams from building up useful momentum in the format.
"I definitely don't want to see it spread out across the season, that would probably take away all the overseas players," Styris said. "I do think it needs a bit of a spruce up. How they do that, it's up to them, whether it be a city-based franchise system - the Big Bash League worked very well last year, and was very popular even in New Zealand.
"What I do think they need to do is make sure the quarter-finals and the Finals Day are straight after the tournament. It's highly annoying, to be perfectly honest, that you have to sit around for two weeks after your last group game and then another month before Finals Day, you lose all the momentum that you've built up and you could even lose the interest of the public, when they have to sit there and wait for six weeks to find out who the winner of the competition is.
"We were absolutely flying at the end of the group stages, so the concern yesterday was that we'd lost our rhythm with the batting, because you do focus those skills for a month and you get into a bit of a groove with it." Luckily for Sussex, that concern was misplaced.
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo