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Vithushan Ehantharajah at Lord's
June 8, 2013
Middlesex 499 for 8 (Rogers 184, Dexter 104) and 50 for 3 drew with Sussex 222 (Wright 77) and 454 (Wright 187, Joyce 98)
This was the second time in a week that Sussex have batted out the final day for a draw in a position of weakness. But their effort at Lord's outdoes their resistance at home against Nottinghamshire for sheer audacity. At no point in this match were Sussex in control until the final evening when, with a lead of 177, they covered the boundary with fielders and dared Middlesex to dream with 20 overs to go.
That luxury was afforded to them by some late lusty hitting from Luke Wright, who finished with his first class best of 187. Middlesex had a go - shuffling their pack to give Joe Denly, Neil Dexter and Gareth Berg the 178 chase a good go - but at 50 for 3, they gave called it off, with a deep sense of regret.
Wright's show reel may consist exclusively of limited-overs bashing but when his team needed him most, he has played a patient role with great conviction. Whenever the seamers were too full or Ollie Rayner was too short, we were treated to glimpses of his hitting - each blow increasing Sussex's lead and adding to Middlesex's frustration.
The armchair view of Wright is that he's afflicted with a sort of batting Tourette's syndrome but it's simply not the case: "It's not like I'm out there I want to come down and slog it for six," he says. Since returning from the IPL, where "you're going in for 15 or 20 balls", he has been on a training diet of red balls, even when going into one-day matches, and he exploited the elongated conditions to bat for just over nine and a half hours in the match.
His first port of call with Ed Joyce was to see off the new ball - taken immediately - and then making parity, which they achieved that when their partnership reached 154. Joyce in particular looked determined; wearing a short ball from James Harris early on, but on 82 he benefited from another drop from Dexter at first slip after he chased a wide ball from Rayner.
However, on 98, the edge of his bat was found again - this time Rayner taking a smart catch down to his left at second slip, off the bowling of Harris. It was the second time Joyce had fallen two short of a hundred this season - his previous effort being south of the river against Surrey. Wright made no such mistake.
'Most people had written us off'- Wright
When Ben Brown played a horrible cut to Adam London at point and Chris Jordan got an inside edge on a ball through to the John Simpson, Wright was joined by Will Beer, with whom he batted for 40 overs in Sussex's first innings as they stared an innings defeat in the face.
Today they seemed much more at ease, despite a Middlesex win still the strong favourite. Beer, who has centuries in club cricket to his name, showed good judgment and footwork as he stuck with Wright, who brought up his first Championship century since July 2011.
Curtailing his attacking instincts in both innings, Wright's 77 in the first stands out like a sore thumb on a card where no other Sussex player passed 25. His effort in the second also came in the aftermath of some poor shots from the top order and goes down as one his best ever as he showed just how "proper" a batsman he can be.
That being said, a close lbw shout when he first came to the crease was voided by a no-ball and he was also dropped by Tim Murtagh on 40 - a fairly routine chance at deep square-leg. That was one of five catches that Middlesex put down; Chris Rogers also failed to hold on when he ran back from mid-off to catch a lofted drive that Wright, on 153, didn't get to the pitch of.
He punished them playing a few more shots - including an 11-ball burst in which he scored 24 - which proved to be the difference. Middlesex might have won on points, but it was the Sussex dressing room that harboured the most satisfaction as they remain unbeaten and, more importantly, in pole position.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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