Sussex v Yorkshire, Hove, 1st day September 24, 2008

Sami leaves Yorkshire under a cloud

Yorkshire 84 for 6 (Sami 3-39) v Sussex

By the close of a frustrating but ultimately dramatic first day at Hove, Yorkshire's batsmen were left thanking the weather gods that a mere 38 overs had been slotted into the day. After being asked to bat first, they slid to a parlous 84 for 6, losing three wickets for six runs in the last three overs of the day, when many at the ground - including perhaps the players themselves - had begun to switch off for the evening.

Instead, when the close did finally arrive (with the skies arguably as clear as they had been all day) it was Sussex, the reigning County Champions, who left the field with a spring in their step as they sensed the ignominy of relegation retreating with every wicket. Instead it is Yorkshire who now find themselves deep in the mire, their only immediate prospect of salvation lying in the performance of their fellow strugglers, Kent, at Canterbury.

Earlier this month, Sussex bade a fond farewell to Mushtaq Ahmed, the Pakistani legspinner whose wiles had been instrumental in their feat of three Championship titles in five seasons. Today it was his replacement and fellow countryman, Mohammad Sami, who took the plaudits with 3 for 39 in 18 overs of sustained hostility. He dismissed Yorkshire's top-scorer, Andrew Gale, in his first over after lunch, then returned late in the day to bowl Jacques Rudolph and Gerard Brophy in consecutive overs. Jason Lewry then stole in with a beautiful inswinger to trap Steven Patterson for a duck and leave Yorkshire floundering for an escape route.

Even allowing for the wickets that fell, it was a bitty sort of a day on the South Coast. Play was delayed for an hour by blustery rain, and by tea less than a session's-worth of overs had been possible in three brief bursts. The bulk of Yorkshire's run-scoring was done by their opener, Gale, whose 31 from 52 balls was a misleadingly free-flowing affair. He scored all of his team's runs off the bat in the 7.3 overs that constituted the morning session, but then - after rifling Robin Martin-Jenkins through the covers for the pick of his five boundaries - he fell in the second over after the break, caught behind swishing outside off at Sami. With him went Yorkshire's best hope of any momentum.

Gale's team-mates found the going much tougher. Lewry opened up with a typically economical first spell, conceding seven runs in four overs while picking up Adam Lyth for a tenth-ball duck, as he played down the wrong line to an outswinger and lost his off stump.

Anthony McGrath survived to lunch, then got off the mark from his 18th delivery with an uneasy fence into the leg-side off Sami. But, having doubled his tally from his 30th ball, he fell two deliveries later, as Martin-Jenkins found some lift on off stump, and Ollie Rayner at first slip scooped up a good low catch. McGrath looked suspiciously at the pitch as he left, perhaps hinting that the ball had stopped on his shot.

Rudolph and Brophy survived a further five overs before the clouds rolled back over Hove and the umpires took the players off once again. A long and tedious interlude ensued, as the rain stayed away but the umpires remained suspicious of the bad light, but eventually, at 5.10pm, they came back out for one last burst. It could yet prove to have been the decisive spell of the summer for both sides. Neither Rudolph - Yorkshire's Player of the Year - nor Brophy looked remotely comfortable as the ball fizzed past the edge with alarming regularity, and when Rudolph inside-edged Sami onto his stumps while attempting a drive, the backbone of their innings disintegrated.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo