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Ryan Bailey at Hove
July 6, 2014
Sussex 319 for 6 (Wright 111*) vs Northamptonshire
It would be a fair assumption to suggest that Luke Wright's career highlights reel will exclusively consist of his exploits against the white ball. Indeed, his proficiency in the shortest-format has rendered his services marketable around the world and a cursory search online immediately presents an array of swashbuckling cameos in unfamiliar colours.
Yet, at home, he remains a somewhat undervalued player and a mediocre record in English apparel is largely responsible.
But, as he reaches, what should be the peak of his career, Wright continues to demonstrate that he has more attributes than those that can just be displayed in Twenty20. There can be no questioning his worth to Sussex. A second Championship hundred of the season glued together an innings that could have, in the circumstances, easily shattered.
Through injury - or, in the case of Chris Jordan and Matt Prior, international duty - Sussex are without as many as seven players, but thanks to Wright's unbeaten 111 that scarcely showed on a day that saw them cause yet more damage to the visitors' hopes of staying afloat. Northants had reason to be impressed: they are also all too aware of the pernicious effects a long injury list can have.
The pitch was lively and at times treacherous to bat on - Chris Nash and Ed Joyce both suffered nasty blows - but the bowlers fell into the trap of trying to force the issue when nothing more than consistent, put-it-on-a-good-length was required to succeed.
Even the military medium of Andrew Hall generated sharp, steep bounce from the Sea End but Northants were left to rue an opportunity that got away. Wright arrived at the crease with his side in danger of folding at 116 for 3, which quickly became for four when the plucky resistance of Steffan Piolet, promoted up the order such is the injury crisis, ended. But he foiled Northants' advances.
Typecast as a venturesome top-order gun-for-hire, Wright is becoming increasingly composed at the crease, showing signs of reining in his previously haphazard instincts. Throughout a knock that spanned 172 balls, there was rarely a glimpse of the unmethodical style that has undermined his time in the international set-up.
From the outset, he was compact in defence and pugnacious in attack as anything full enough to lean forward and drive was suitably punished. In putting on 136 with Ben Brown for the sixth wicket, the pair took the sting out of Northants.
"We had to work hard out there today because the pitch has cracks on it but apart from the odd delivery, it's coming on really nicely," Wright said. "My game has definitely matured and that's largely down to the fact I've played more Championship cricket. When I was going away with England, naturally that was my focus and you can get swept away with that.
"When you're practicing so heavily for an upcoming series you can lose your focus and I've just gone back to the nets and found a new strategy which so far has worked. In the past, I would go in and hope for the best with a see ball, hit ball mentality which was why I was probably so inconsistent."
Not only did he manage to negate the conditions but also nullify a Northants attack that scented blood - quite literally - from the moment he walked to the middle at 116 for 3 shortly after lunch.
Nash had barely recovered from being clocked on the helmet by David Willey before tamely chipping the left-armer to midwicket and then Luke Wells's admirable, if fortunate, resistance was ended by Hall's relentlessness; the South African got one to nip back and clip the top of off.
Yet, Northants could not persist. Joyce was as nonchalant as ever in accumulating runs all around the wicket but Willey returned to trap him on front and Ashar Zaidi played a rash shot that was wholly uncalled for in the circumstances, offering point a simple catch off James Middlebrook's off-spin.
That was as good as it got for the visitors, however. As the bowlers flagged and the ball wore old, Wright unveiled the shots that will doubtlessly garnish his career best bits as he raced from fifty to three figures in 62 deliveries. Two thumping drives off Steven Crook followed by a lusty six into the pavilion was a fitting way to complete his hundred.
Pataudi Jr caught a young English fan's fancy for his princely ways and his heroic batting