Sussex v Northamptonshire, Hove, 3rd day July 8, 2014

Crook rallies but can't halt Sussex mismatch

Ryan Bailey at Hove

Sussex 405 (Wright 158) beat Northamptonshire 116 (Magoffin 5-12) and 204 (Crook 52*, Magoffin 3-28, Hobden 3-49) by an innings and 85 runs

It wasn't long after the formalities were complete at Hove that a swarm of enthusiastic schoolchildren proceeded to invade the outfield and take advantage of the prompt conclusion equipped with bats and balls. For those spectators that were feeling somewhat short-changed from a match that lasted just seven sessions, they ought to have stuck around for the afternoon session - after all, the games of Kwik-Cricket were more of a contest than what had gone before.

Indeed, this was, from start to finish, very much men against boys. Sussex began the week just one place ahead of Northamptonshire in the Division One standings but it scarcely showed as the gulf in class between the two sides was big enough for the Queen Mary to dock at Brighton Pier. The white flag on the visitors' balcony had been raised long before they meekly capsized shortly after the umpires extended the morning session.

Having now lost all but two of their ten Championship outings, every sinew of credence and confidence that embodied Northants' successes last term has been drained. Nightwatchman Olly Stone was thrown in at the deep-end without lifebands, Matthew Spriegel horribly misjudged one from the imperious Steve Magoffin that nipped back and Andrew Hall was snared attempting an expansive drive when the situation called for anything but.

But, while the ease in which the hosts coasted to victory can largely be attributed to their opponents' ineptitude, Sussex were clinically efficient. After all, they were, just like their opponents, in desperate need of a victory after a barren run of their own. But the difference is that Sussex have the calibre of players such as Magoffin in their ranks.

Adding to his first innings haul of five wickets, he continued to torment the Northants batsmen with a nagging line and length that allowed little room for error. After the ECB pitch inspector had watched proceedings from afar on Monday, he deemed the surface perfectly adequate on the back of a brief appraisal before play - but Northants proceeded to make it look like a minefield. Rob Newton gave the Australian his seventh of the match and Kyle Coetzer followed in similar fashion next over.

Ben Duckett provided a brief period of resistance alongside Steven Crook, who followed up a century at Lord's with an unbeaten fifty here. But once Duckett turned Ashar Zaidi to Chris Nash at short leg, for a watchful 23, the wheels were set in motion though.

Crook played, unlike his teammates, without any inhibitions and batted with a semblance of disdain with the intention to show those on the balcony how it was done. Eight fours and a lusty maximum off James Tredwell - the England spinner went wicketless despite Sussex's dominance - added a smidgen of respectability to the scoreboard but it was too little too late. The writing is very much on the wall for Northants.

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  • Luke on July 9, 2014, 11:05 GMT

    Northants are just an embarrassment to the competition... lost all but 2 games and in 1 of those they were 9 down. Really not wise to let your best bowler (Brooks) leave after you've just been promoted. All these 1-sided games involving Northants do little for the credibility of the competition I'm afraid.

  • Dummy4 on July 9, 2014, 8:24 GMT

    Not sure Sussex will survive, though they have Northants again as last game of the season. They also have Lancashire, that is likely to be the relegation decider. The importance of fitness to play cannot be overstated - Sussex won their opening two games, but a run of injuries and call-ups has left them shy of half a team, and they are not where they would want to be, to use coaching gobbledegook.

  • Dummy4 on July 9, 2014, 7:51 GMT

    I have two observations ti make. 1) Northants did get dealt a bum hand this year with Copeland, who won most of their games for them last season, not being allowed back due to some arbitary qualification reason and Willey, their second outstanding player last season, has been injured for most of it. Would those two have significantly changed their fortunes, who knows? As a Somerset fan, based on last years performances when we were effectively missing Tresco, i would say they could have made a huge difference. 2) there is now clearly a gulf in class between Div 1 and Div 2. Both this ear and last teams coming up have struggled. So when people say players such as Will Gidman should be playing for England, this is the prove that Div 2 is easier and thus they need to be turning out in Div 1 to get into the England side. I rarely agree with anything the ECB does, but having two divisions has had the required effect: teams in Div 1 play a much better standard of cricket

  • Mark on July 9, 2014, 6:55 GMT

    Early in the season comparisons were being made with Derbyshire and the comment was made that Northants were showing far more fight than a Derbyshire side that was regularly being rolled over for under 100 in their early games. Derbyshire turned it around with a remarkable late charge that could even have saved them had other results gone their way.

    For Northants though this looks to be a lost cause: 72 points behind, with only 5 games left, realistically they need to win 5 of the last 6 games now to stay up - even four consecutive, 22 points wins would still leave them adrift at the bottom - and would still depend on other results. I believe that only twice has a side been relegated with 4 wins; to be relegated with 5 would, most likely, never be beaten.

    It's a pity for Northants who looked so good last season. Hopefully they won't follow Surrey and Derbyshire from Division 1 straight into wooden spoon struggles next year.

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