Sussex grateful for Joyce gem
Sussex 270 for 8 (Joyce 104*) trail Nottinghamshire 420 (Patel 156, Jaques 67, Read 61, Magoffin 4-110) by 182 runs
That Sussex are within 33 runs of reaching the follow-on target of 303 owes much to their captain Ed Joyce. On a day that saw his team-mates struggle to cope with a Nottinghamshire bowling attack that built pressure and sustained it for long periods, he produced a gritty yet somehow gorgeous century to keep the opposition at bay.
It was his third century of the campaign and one that takes his Championship average over 100. During a four-hour vigil, in which he faced 186 balls and lost five partners before stumps, he quelled the threat of a fired up Stuart Broad with composure that others were unable to match.
This was much more than a gentle jaunt to one of the more picturesque corners of the county scene for Broad. They don't come much prettier than Hove, but Broad disrupted the deckchair dwellers and seagulls, stomping to the crease with a smooth gallop, sending the ball down at good pace and appealing as loud as he ever has done. There was little doubt that he was taking this, his last run out before the first Test against Sri Lanka on June 12, seriously. He gave himself an extra-workout in the field, diving to stop boundaries and jumping on loose balls
Some of his appeals were granted, as he snared Rory Hamilton-Brown and Matt Prior with full balls that moved in a touch and had both right-handers trying to play the ball to leg. Prior, batting at No. 4, had looked in decent touch having come in with the score at 27 for 2. He drove well and was sharp between the wickets, playing Test nemesis Peter Siddle well, but was unable to negotiate his compatriot in a similar manner.
In tandem with Siddle, the pair opened superbly and made Sussex fight for their runs. While Siddle was relentless and patient, Broad varied his lengths to good effect and used his bouncer well to ensure the batsman were unable to fully capitalise on his fuller ball.
Nottinghamshire were only able to add 44 runs to their overnight score, as Steve Magoffin was quicker on the draw this morning than he was at the start of the first day, taking 3 for 18 in five overs. Chris Read lasted just six balls before deflecting through to Prior and Magoffin finished off the innings with the wickets of Ajmal Shahzad and Andre Adams in successive balls, leaving just one of the latter's stumps standing. Samit Patel reached 156 before giving Matthew Hobden his third wicket of the innings when he found point trying to drive on the up.
With both sides gunning for Championship success, there was always going to be a degree of tension in the air. It was amplified somewhat by Alex Hales' contentious dismissal on Sunday, following a catch that Ben Brown claimed. Photos seemed to show that the ball was grounded.
The official ECB Twitter account tweeted a YouTube clip of the catch, dubbing it a "fine slip catch", at almost the exact moment that Brown was making his way to the middle. Both Hales and Brown were tagged in the tweet, which seemed to invite controversy. Sure enough, during the tea interval, Hales and team-mate Rikki Wessels took the opportunity to reply with their photographic evidence to the contrary. By 5.50pm, the ECB's original tweet had gone, and so had Brown.
He had begun to acquit himself well after being 'greeted' to the crease by the Notts players but was trapped lbw to Siddle in the second over after tea.
Away from all the social media nonsense, Joyce was a classy presence throughout. Even as he tried to forage for extra runs with the Sussex lower order, he did so in an elegant manner; dabbing and using his feet to find gaps for runs of an even number, rather than hacking wildly across the line.
He gave Broad and Siddle the respect they deserved, before using Ajmal Shahzad's extra pace and full length to put quick runs on the board with square drives and some well-timed shots off his pads. When Broad returned with the new ball, Joyce moved to 94 with a crisp drive through the covers that elicited a chuffed scoff from those that had remained to see if he could reach his hundred and Sussex could last the day.
They got their wish, with Joyce even having the awareness to pinch a quick single off the last ball of the over to ensure he has the strike in the morning. He hurried off the field, before being stopped and congratulated by the game's other centurion Patel. He raised his bat to the supporters and marched up the stairs, well aware there is much more work to do.