Sussex 298 (Wright 166, Brown 55) beat Middlesex 176 (Hamza 3-43) by 122 runs
There may have been some grumbling among Sussex supporters when Luke Wright announced his retirement from red-ball cricket a few weeks ago. The team had just been beaten at home by Leicestershire in their Championship opener, with only one member of the top six passing 50, and it was easy to question the decision to give Wright - a batsman with a first-class average nearing 40 - a white ball-only contract.
Sussex won their next game, away at Durham, to get their season up and running, and there were one or two pointed rejoinders from players and staff among the celebratory tweets. Now, at the midway point of their Royal London Cup campaign, they have picked up three wins from four, with Wright making a resounding statement of his own by recording a List A career-best as Middlesex were roundly thrashed at Lord's.
Never mind Storm Hannah, in the St John's Wood area you had to look out for Whirlwind Wright. Having missed Sussex's last match, a rain-affected defeat against Somerset, with illness, Wright returned to open the batting and was at the crease for all but 3.3 overs of an innings truncated slightly by morning rain, kicking up through the gears to bludgeon 81 from his last 26 balls as Middlesex's bowling fell apart after a strong start. His final tally of 166 was a record for Sussex in the format.
This was a masterclass from a player that England never quite got the most out of but who remains a rambunctious force in the county game. For more than three-quarters of his innings - Wright's longest in the format by a distance - he played within himself, punching the odd boundary and focusing on keeping the Sussex effort together as they fell to 102 for 5 on a soft, green seamer beneath heavy cloud cover. He then played second fiddle to Sussex's captain, Ben Brown, who scored 48 out of 81 during the first half of their 174-run association.
Then, as if someone had mentioned his trigger word, he decided it was time to start hitting the fairways. Toby Roland-Jones was deposited twice down the ground and once into the Grandstand for 6-4-6 as Wright went from 85 off 116 to a century in the space of three balls; Tom Helm was manhandled with even greater distain in the 43rd over, Wright hammering three more sixes as 28 runs were added to the scoreboard. Dawid Malan's occasional legspin disappeared for 22 in the next and Wright had cleared the ropes nine times in all by the time he launched Helm to the man on the deep midwicket rope.
The closest Wright came to falling before then was when Tim Murtagh, who returned an old-school 10-1-24-3 in amongst the carnage, twice beat the bat in the same over only to see the ball marginally miss the stumps on both occasions.
Brown only managed to add seven runs to his own total during Wright's blitzkrieg, but nevertheless played a sterling hand in shepherding Sussex to an above-par score. Brown had spent part of the winter training with Wright in South Africa and working on his limited-overs game and their partnership took Sussex from a sticky position to one of increasing dominance, Nathan Sowter the only bowler aside from Murtagh to achieve respectability with figures of 4 for 48.
Having inserted their opponents on a seasick-green strip, it was Middlesex who lost their stomach. Facing an asking rate slightly above a run a ball, they lost wickets at regular intervals, with a 42-run stand between Dawid Malan and Stevie Eskinazi the highest of the innings. Eskinazi made a dapper 42 from 40 before having his off stump pinged by a wicked delivery from George Garton, but it was Danny Briggs' arm ball to defeat New Zealand's Ross Taylor, probably the man best equipped to keep Middlesex in touch, for 5 that felt like the decisive dismissal.
Sussex duly moved up to third in the South Group, above their beaten opponents (who suffered a big hit on net run rate), with three winnable fixtures against teams below them to come. The kids may be all right but Sussex's display was (mostly) all Wright. If he can help them get back to Lord's on May 25 for the Royal London final, there ought not to be too many complaints among the members.