Wright, Brown stage Sussex recovery
Sussex 300 for 6 (Wright 96, Brown 85*) v Hampshire
Sussex batsman Luke Wright fell four runs short of three figures on an even first day of the season against Hampshire at the Ageas Bowl. Playing in his 100th first-class match, he fell for a magnificent 96 as Sussex battled from 22 for 3 to end the day on 300 for 6.
Ben Brown also scored a well-made and unbeaten 85 after Hampshire's winter recruit Gareth Berg took a wicket with his first delivery for his new county.
The visitors won the toss and elected to bat on a clear south-coast morning but soon found themselves struggling on 22 for 3. Opening bowler James Tomlinson - who nabbed 46 wickets last season - found an early breakthrough in the seventh over, as he clipped the top of Luke Well's off-stump for a 12-ball duck.
Hampshire fast bowler Berg proved the man of the morning as he ended the session with figures of 2 for 6. Berg, on his first Championship match since facing Nottinghamshire for Middlesex exactly a year ago, struck with his first delivery since making the switch from the capital, as he bowled Chris Nash for 11 in the 11th over. The South African born seamer stuck again exactly an over later, when he found the edge of Michael Yardy's bat, caught behind for 6 - as the visitors languished.
Ed Joyce and Craig Cachopa steadied the slide with a timely 70-run partnership for the fourth wicket, before the former fell victim to Danny Briggs, after a fluent 42 from 99 balls. Spinner Briggs managed to find some exaggerated bounce to find the edge of the Irishman's bat - Sean Ervine plucked it at gully. The next ball, Briggs thought he had bagged Wright for a golden duck, when he rapped the England international on the pads, but the umpire turned down his loud appeal.
Left-armer Chris Wood snared his first wicket of the season in the 48th over, when Cachopa pushed at a ball coming across him - as he departed for a well-worked 41 from 107 balls
Wright brought up an excellent 69-ball fifty, three overs before tea with a pushed single behind square - the 24th of his first-class career. Brown arrived at the same milestone off 73 balls, in a knock including six boundaries, an over before the pair celebrated their 100-run partnership.
The duo looked at ease slicing the ball around the expansive Ageas Bowl outfield and offered little chances in the early evening. But Tomlinson managed to find the outside edge of a driving Wright to finally see off the batsman for 96, four overs into the second new ball.
Despite their early dominance, Hampshire were made to toil as the shadows descended on the outfield and they picked up a third bonus point in the 94th over. Brown will have an agonising wait overnight as he sits 15 runs short of a sixth first-class century.
Speaking after the play, Berg said: "I couldn't ask for a better start. I've battled with Nashy a couple of times over the years and it was nice to get him again. I think it was a fair day, a couple of decision could have gone our way but the bowlers toiled pretty well out there for the first day of a season. We aren't too disappointed.
Sussex's Wright added: "If I had been offered 96 before I went out to bat I would have snapped your hand off for it but is disappointing to get so close. I was trying to take it to the bowlers and I nicked one but that's part of the game.
"I didn't want to just hang around there, it was nipping around and they were bowling well so I wanted to put it back on them. It was difficult against the new ball, I feel bad for the lads, but I got away quickly and able to settle."