Sussex fume as Klinger stands his ground

Gloucestershire 332 for 7 (Klinger 106*, Mustard 71, Miles 56, Magoffin 4-62) vs Sussex

When Michael Klinger punched Steve Magoffin to backward point, and the Sussex debutant Christian Davis dived forward, appearing to take a very fine low catch, he had 29. But as the fielders celebrated a wicket that would have left Gloucestershire reeling at 92 for five, Klinger was not for moving. He chose to leave the umpires to decide if the ball had carried and, after a lengthy conference, they decided he should stay. Sussex's fielders initially appeared dumbfounded, but their lips loosened just in time for the exchange of some terse words.

Klinger, almost inevitably, was still there at the close with a century to his name, with his team in the ascendancy after a disastrous start on a pitch he had elected to bat first on. On fine margins do such games turn.

Sussex were within their rights to grumble (just as Klinger had been within his to stand his ground), but by day's end they had let their outstanding start go to waste. Steve Magoffin, trotting in from the Sea End, had looked the force of old, picking up the Gloucestershire top three in his first six overs, and Jofra Archer had forced Hamish Marshall to edge to Chris Jordan, who took a fine catch at slip; Gloucestershire were ruinously placed at 34 for four.

Magoffin took upwards of 28% of Sussex's wickets during his first four years at the club, but his influence - on pitches often unkind to his art - has appeared to slightly wane this season, even if he still went into this game with his 25 wickets coming at 29. He was immediately into his work here, however, with his line, length and lots of lift making life uncomfortable for Gloucestershire. Will Tavare was bowled playing across the line, while Graeme van Buuren and Chris Dent pushed and were caught behind; the ball after the latter fell, Danny Briggs parried a very hard chance from Marshall in the gully. Never mind, Archer's pace did for him shortly after.

But then came some vintage Klinger fare; his driving was perfectly precise and his judgment outside off stump perfect, while he was always alive to the possibility of a single. On a day when the outside edge was beaten plenty, it is hard to recall the beaten blade being his. His contentious reprieve was his sole false stroke. He never really needed to put his foot down, but late in the day there was a nonchalant flick for six over midwicket and his cuts had more purpose too.

"Given the position he went in on," reflected his coach, Richard Dawson, "it was a massive achievement to be there at the end. He just took it ball by ball. He's a soldier, he just carries on going. He's a consistent person, the way he trains, he's very honest, he wants to succeed and is hungry and wants to make big runs. If he gets low scores, he doesn't let it get him down. It's very simple - he knows his strengths and he sticks to them, and the bottom line is that he's a quality bloke."

Klinger anchored three vital stands. First, 133 with Phil Mustard, playing his first innings of note for Gloucestershire, a typically roistering affair full of punchy cuts and beautiful off-drives, before he was bowled trying to slog Briggs. Then there was 62 with Jack Taylor, who never fully settled as he looked to open up the offside and, after Taylor and Benny Howell fell in quick succession, an unbeaten 109 with Craig Miles, who had an aggressive half-century by the close of play.

It was during the stand with Miles that Sussex seemed to rather drop their bundle. Twice, four overthrows whistled away to the fence and, on a pitch where the new ball is key (as evidenced by Magoffin first thing), their performance with the second one was profligate. As the seamers inexplicably dug the ball in, Ben Brown had to be at his most athletic behind the stumps, and still 18 byes slipped through. Miles, to his credit, batted like a man auditioning for a promotion, accumulating adroitly then feasting on Sussex's flagging seamers late on.

"It was a niggly day, and one of the most difficult to watch this season," said Sussex's coach Mark Davis, "because we were in a good position and it didn't quite go our way on occasions too. We weren't good enough to make our own luck. The new ball is key on this pitch because the ball is getting soft quickly and when it does get soft it gets harder to get people out. We didn't bowl well enough with it."

On Klinger's reprieve, Davis veered on the side of diplomacy. "The umpires are there to make a decision, they made that decision and we have to move on," he said. "It's done, it's massively frustrating - I thought it just went straight to backward point and the umpires conferred and that was that. It's game-changing, and certainly day-changing. It is what it is, that happens in sport, and we've got to move on."

He was right, the umpires had made a game-changing decision. But he also knew that going into day two, his side had plenty to bemoan besides Klinger's prosperous pardon.