Sussex v Kent, Hove, 1st day April 23, 2008

Arafat stars against former team

Sussex 213 for 7 (Prior 57*, Arafat 4-68) v Kent

Matt Prior rescued Sussex from a batting slump on the first day at Hove © Getty Images
It hasn't been the easiest of starts to the season for either Sussex or Kent and it was the visitors who ended the first day at Hove feeling a little better about life as Yasir Arafat took four wickets against his former county. Sussex have had to wave goodbye to Ryan Harris after he opted to remain a non-overseas player in Australia and, in their first home match of the season, the batting suffered a significant collapse on a fine Hove afternoon.

Matt Prior, with a restrained half century, and Luke Wright halted the slide with a stand of 84 for the sixth wicket, but Arafat struck two late blows allowing Kent to be highly satisfied with their day. They started the season with a 10-wicket defeat against Nottinghamshire and a one-day loss against Essex and had to enter this match without their captain, Robert Key, who has gone down with a virus.

Key hadn't been well enough to travel with the team and has undergone blood tests to try and identify the virus which has laid him low. It was bad timing for him and he was named in the England Performance Squad earlier this week to boost his hopes of an international recall during the season.

For a while it was looking as though the decision of Key's stand-in, Martin van Jaarsveld, to bowl first was misguided, but as they say it's always wise to judge the scoreboard at the end of play. Arafat, who spent a season with Sussex in 2006, bowled with good pace and was well supported by Robbie Joseph - selected ahead of Martin Saggers - and Azhar Mahmood.

Sussex's problems started with the mad-cap run out of Carl Hopkinson and it will go down as one of the unnecessary of the season. Hopkinson played the ball towards mid-on and Joseph threw down the stumps, but that appeal was given not out. The ball ran away towards the boundary, chased by van Jaarsveld. By this time Michael Yardy had called for an overthrow, but Hopkinson dawdled and was well out as van Jaarsveld returned the ball from the deep and it heralded a collapse of 4 for 11

The morning session was washed out by steady drizzle and the lingering moisture swayed van Jaarsveld's decision. The early movement that he was banking on didn't appear although Joseph provided a breakthrough when he squeezed one between Chris Nash's bat and pad. Hopkinson and Yardy ticked along comfortably until the meltdown in their running as the sun burnt away the clouds to leave the best spring day of the season so far.

But instead of building on a platform of 96 for 2 the middle order slumped. Murray Goodwin, who began the season with a century against Hampshire, was well caught at first slip by James Tredwell diving to his right. In the next over Yardy got a thin inside off Joseph and was soon followed by Chris Adams when a leading edge was well taken, low down, at mid-on.

Prior and Wright played within themselves against some testing seam bowling from Arafat and Mahmood. Both batsmen are immensely strong square of the wicket, but the boundary count for the day was a low 19 partly due to a slow outfield. Wright defended resolutely until he was caught on the back foot trying to play towards mid-on against Arafat, whose fourth wicket came when Robin Martin-Jenkins was trapped lbw. Prior survived some testing swing bowling in the final hour and will be tasked with eking what he can from the tail.

Andrew McGlashan is a staff writer at Cricinfo