Player of the Match
Player of the Match

Reece Topley comes to party as Sussex hold off Hampshire

Reece Topley celebrates a breakthrough Getty Images

Sussex 188 for 6 (Salt 73) beat Hampshire 174 (Rossouw 60, Topley 4-33) by 14 runs

Life is just a party and parties weren't meant to last. So sang Prince in "1999" - and Twenty20 hadn't even gained a foothold then. Well, who knows, maybe the party won't last, but let's raise a glass or two in the meantime. Reece Topley has feared countless times that his party was over, but this was a time to dance until dawn as England's most injury-hit fast bowler returned to the professional game at Hove with devastating effect.

The end result: 4 for 33 against Hampshire, the county who understandably felt they had to let him go last October after only 21 matches in three years, and a 14-run margin for Sussex as they defended their 188 for 6. He had to deliver and he did just that.

Hampshire are now without a win in three matches, but they are a fine T20 side and they were unrelenting even as they lost wickets. With 25 needed from 10 balls, and Topley having to return for a final over, Kyle Abbott struck him down the ground for six and then survived a catch at deep midwicket to Rashid Khan. But when he spliced the next one, Rashid made no mistake.

A left-arm quick with the ability to swing the ball in has always been a priceless commodity, whatever the format, attractive enough for England to give Topley 10 ODIs and six T20 internationals.

In his first over, he looked uncomfortable, and down on pace. If it was a party, he would have been in the kitchen, head down, not quite sure he should be there, struggling to make eye contact. In his second over, everything clicked: Hampshire's top order in the shape of Aneurin Donald, James Vince and Sam Northeast evaporated within the space of four balls.

Donald was beaten on the drive around leg stump and adjudged lbw. Perhaps the fact that replays suggested the ball was too high should be politely glossed over because the punch-of-the-air celebration was one of supreme, blushing happiness. Vince sought an off-side drive and inside-edged an inswinger - out second ball for nought: you can always rely on Vince, as talented as he is, to play the fall guy. Then Northeast's leg stump was cleaned up with a first-ball yorker. There had been a six by Donald, but everybody had forgotten about it by then.

Five absences in six years because of stress fractures of the back, and he is still here: only 25, but his back must have felt 75 at times and, in his lowest moments, how old he felt mentally barely warranted thinking about. But Sussex and Middlesex remained open-minded about his potential and he opted for Sussex, playing club cricket for Reigate Priory before Sussex offered him a summer contract in early July and Jason Gillespie, their coach, assured him that what would be would be.

Topley's five fractures were in two areas - L3 and L4 for the experts. He has so many screws in his back that when he passes through airport security the alarm could play the national anthem. But in his dark days he didn't leave it there and added a broken hand and shoulder surgery for good measure. England coaches remedied his action, removing the leap to the crease, to try to reduce the stress. But through it all his wrist position - his perfect wrist position - remained entrenched.

The last time Sussex lost after posting a score so large was back in 2008 when (no prizes for guessing) Hampshire were the victors. Few Blast batting sides appear so vulnerable yet so awash with potential, Phil Salt and Delray Rawlins might have "ephemeral" as their middle name. "Party over, oops out of time", as Prince went on in "1999", can be uttered at any moment.

For Salt, the party was long lasting, 73 from 46 balls as he rapped the ball to all parts for his fifth T20 half-century. That's only five fifties and already he has been called up for an England squad, although without making his debut. For Rawlins, it was much more fleeting, six off two balls - meeting Mason Crane's legspin with a confident skip-down-the-ground six and then outwitted by his follow-up - yet even those balls felt somehow special. Rashid's 22 off seven was pretty transient, too.

Salt set the tone for Sussex as Chris Morris leaked 18 from his second over, climaxed by a rasping straight drive. Luke Wright fed him the strike before Abbott's bouncer defeated his pull shot, and Laurie Evans fell to a ridiculous run out, even by T20 standards, when he was beaten by Crane, kept his back foot resolutely in the crease but then made an ingrained attempt at a run as the wicketkeeper, Lewis McManus held the ball over the stumps.

Hampshire might have ruined the night had Rilee Rossouw's 60 off 38 not been briefly interrupted when he went off for further concussion checks after he was struck attempting a ramp shot against David Wiese (those dressing room conversations would have been interesting) and McManus struck 32 from 15 balls late on.

But Sussex, with their England pair Jofra Archer and Chris Jordan looking on in the crowd, secured their first win. Their promotion challenge in the Championship is looking ragged, but after Topley's great night their T20 side should have the fans queuing down to Hove sea front wondering what further miracles might ensue.

Hampshire 2nd innings Partnerships

1st18RR RossouwAHT Donald
2nd0JM VinceRR Rossouw
3rd0SA NortheastRR Rossouw
4th48LA DawsonRR Rossouw
5th13RR RossouwCH Morris
6th12RR RossouwJK Fuller
7th8RR RossouwLD McManus
7th13CP WoodLD McManus
8th33RR RossouwLD McManus
9th7KJ AbbottLD McManus
10th22KJ AbbottMS Crane