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Hugh Chevallier at Hove
April 21, 2004
Lancashire 51 for 1 trail Sussex 195 (Montgomerie 60*) by 144 runs
Poor old Sussex. This really should have been their day: a chance to strut in front of a celebratory Hove crowd - the first to see their side start a match as champions. And their confidence was high - after all they had much the better of the draw at The Oval last week, and here they were winning the toss on an unexpectedly bright morning. Things, however, did not go to plan. By the end of the day, which came when a downpour prevented a resumption after tea, Lancashire were 51 for 1 in reply to Sussex's 195 - and firmly in the box seat.
Chris Adams later said that it had been a collective judgment to choose to bat, but it looked like the worst sort of committee decision as early as the third ball: Ian Ward edged to Dominic Cork, the first of three sharp catches he held at third slip - the best a magnificent take wide of his right ankle to dismiss Kevin Innes.
Murray Goodwin and Richard Montgomerie dug in for the second wicket in dour fashion, and by the time they were parted at 71 for 2, the weather wore a similarly grey face. The supporters must have heard the forecast, as hardly anyone turned up for Sussex's party. Of those that did, several preferred to sit in the car with the heater turned on rather than occupy the famous Hove deckchairs. Attendance was so poor, in fact, that Neil Beck, who runs a bookstall by the main gate, was packing up soon after lunch. "It could have been worse," he said, putting a brave face on it and gaining some solace from warming his fingers around his pipe, "I've sold a few titles."
The cold may not have helped the bowlers, but some of the strokes played by the Sussex batsmen certainly did - Robin Martin-Jenkins was especially culpable when he drove loosely at Glen Chapple. Meanwhile Cork, who had gone wicketless on his Lancashire debut against Northamptonshire, now regained his old Midas touch. He had Goodwin lbw for 33, then took another slip catch to remove Adams - a Derbyshire colleague from another life - before forcing Tim Ambrose to play on. Cork had a hand in all the four wickets to fall before lunch.
Montgomerie had briefly found an ally in Martin-Jenkins, but that was his problem - none of his partners hung around. He also struggled for the strike, and the net result was that Sussex foundered, eventually limping to 195; not since July 2002 had they failed to collect a batting point. Montgomerie, though, was obdurate, battling a shade under four hours, facing 157 balls and ending on 60 not out. It was the second time he had carried his bat - and the first time that a Sussex batsman had done so against Lancashire at Hove since Ken Suttle in 1964. (Goodwin managed it against them last season, but that was at Old Trafford.)
For Lancashire, owners of the most productive batting line-up in the Championship, it was a chance for their hard-working seamers to shine. All impressed, especially Sajid Mahmood, whose pace recently caught the eye of Dennis Lillee. He and Cork both claimed three wickets.
For Sussex, it was a day to forget. Or perhaps a day to relive past glories. During the lunch-break the new book The Longest Journey - The Inside Story of Sussex's Championship Triumph was launched. If they have many more days like this at Hove, there may be another long journey before the Championship returns.
Hugh Chevallier is deputy editor of Wisden Cricketers' Almanack.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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