Sussex dreamers cut a dash
Yorkshire 96 and 27 for 1 trail Sussex 356 (Brown 93, Joyce 92, Nash 80) by 233 runs
This was a day when Sussex viewed the loss of wickets as necessary tariffs to be paid on the pathway to greater prosperity. Like TE Lawrence's dreamers of the day, they sought to make their wishes reality by bold strategem and admirable risk-taking. It worked, too.
Beginning the morning on 104 for 3, a lead of eight, Joyce's men added 252 runs in 51.5 overs to be bowled out for 356. They then removed Alex Lees, caught at slip by Chris Jordan off Steve Magoffin for 4, before bad light and rain ended play 34 overs early. Already, just two days into the County Championship season, Yorkshire's batsmen are 233 runs in arrears and face an interesting test of their technique and resolve in the top tier of English cricket. The forecast for tomorrow may predict dull weather but the sport on view at Headingley should be gripping.
There was scarcely a moment in Thursday's play when Sussex did not try to seize the game by its very throat. Rory Hamilton-Brown set the tone in the first hour by spanking five boundaries in a breezy 26 and Joe Gatting made 20 off 23 balls before he skied Azeem Rafiq's first ball to wide mid-off where Jack Brooks ran round to take a good catch.
Sussex's tactics were plain. With bad weather predicted - it didn't arrive until 3.45pm - the batsmen were intent on taking every chance to force the pace and establish a large lead. This approach was best expressed by the batting of Ed Joyce and Ben Brown, who added 120 in 23 overs either side of lunch as the Yorkshire attack was eviscerated. Joyce, who insofar as the innings needed an anchor had done the job, made 92 off 140 balls before he edged Brooks to slip. He deserved a century but not as much as Brown, whose batting was something of a revelation.
The Sussex wicketkeeper hit 14 fours, some of them sublime, on his way to 93 and three figures seemed his for the taking when a full delivery from Brooks rattled the ash. Yorkshire were encouraged by these successes and Brooks celebrated by having Jordan lbw next ball. But by then the lead was over 200; Sussex were over the hills and far away as far as the match was concerned. The loss of the last five wickets for 38 runs still left Joyce's bold adventurers with a first-innings lead of 260.
It was an interesting day for Rafiq, who conceded 70 runs in his 15 overs, and even more so for Yorkshire's Championship debutant Brooks. The ex-Northamptonshire seamer's first 9.4 overs in the innings cost 60 runs; he then took four wickets in 15 balls at a cost of 15 runs and finished with 4 for 76 off 13 overs. At least he stuck at it but it was interesting to compare his figures to those of the admirable Ryan Sidebottom, who took 4 for 72 in 21.5 overs.
At the end of the day Brooks was talking with conviction about Yorkshire chances of winning the game if they "bat long". "Really?" the sceptical Leeds crowd might reply in unison. Most White Rose diehards would be very happy with a draw on Saturday evening. Unless a lot of weather intervenes, even that would be a significant achievement. But this is Headingley after all and perhaps Brooks will be celebrating his four wickets with a bottle of the '81 this evening.