Matches (16)
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Hove, May 18 - 21, 2023, County Championship Division Two
123 & 737
(T:380) 481 & 1/0

Match drawn


James Coles steals the Steven Smith show with classy maiden hundred

Sussex teenager puts side in position to press for emphatic win at Hove

Alan Gardner
Alan Gardner
James Coles celebrates his maiden first-class hundred  •  Getty Images

James Coles celebrates his maiden first-class hundred  •  Getty Images

Glamorgan 123 and 118 for 1 (Byrom 57) trail Sussex 481 (Coles 138, Smith 89, Haines 58) by 240 runs
Come for the Australian great, stay for the local rising star. There was a Sussex centurion on day two at Hove but it was not, as had been expected, Steven Smith. Instead, 19-year-old James Coles took the acclaim on a sun-dappled afternoon by the south coast, with a maiden first-class hundred that put his side into a position of considerable strength against the visitors, Glamorgan.
Smith made 89 and could perhaps feel aggrieved after receiving his third lbw decision in three innings for Sussex - this one the most marginal of the lot. He seemed content with the workout, nevertheless, even if the expected hefty victory for his side, after they took a 358-run lead on first innings, may mean he won't get to bat again before joining up with Australia ahead of the World Test Championship final (and the small matter of the Ashes thereafter).
Glamorgan dug in to be one-down at the close, with conditions having eased considerably since their implosion on the first morning. Marnus Labuschagne resumed his pre-Ashes tango with Ollie Robinson, and their contest should provide another compelling reason for spectators to turn up for day three. Come for the ICC's No. 1-ranked batter, stay for the possibility of a resounding home victory (so long as the ICC's No. 1-ranked batter doesn't bat all day…)
Some 1000 schoolchildren received free entry to the ground on Friday, through the Sussex Cricket Foundation, and there was no doubt who had top billing in their eyes, as Smith patiently signed autographs and posed for selfies during the lunchbreak. Coles is not long out of school himself, and may have inspired one or two to want to follow in his footsteps when he punched Jamie McIlroy crisply through the covers shortly after the interval to take his score into three figures for the first time.
Coles did not start the season in Sussex's first XI but has now made scores of 74, 14, 70 and 138. A product of the club's development partnership with the Oxfordshire Cricket Board, he became the youngest player ever to make a first-class debut for Sussex, at 16 years and 157 days, during the Bob Willis Trophy in 2020 - although discussion of this fact in the press box was met with the query, "What about href="">John Barclay?" Since the former Sussex captain and cricket committee chair was sitting upstairs, it was possible to confirm that Barclay was, in fact, 16 years and seven months (or 205 days) when selected in the XI to play Jamaica at Hove in August 1970.
That digression dealt with, it was possible to put Sussex's day in its full context. Coles began it in the company of Smith, their fifth-wicket partnership eventually extending to 143, before the teenager shared stands of 57 and 79 with Oli Carter and Fynn Hudson-Prentice respectively, taking Sussex to a fourth batting point and a position of dominance.
Coles was seventh man out, lbw to a tired stroke having faced 223 balls, after an innings characterised by fluent cover drives and percussive whips to leg. The only moment of drama during an otherwise chanceless knock came when he had made 72 and an attempted flick off the pads saw the ball ricochet behind him and deflect off leg stump, but without enough force to dislodge the bails.
By the time Coles walked off to a standing ovation, Glamorgan were beginning to flag themselves, and promptly put down a succession of chances as the kids in the stands hooted and cheered. Labuschagne, who sent down four overs of liquorice allsorts spin for 39 runs, dropped the easiest of the lot when Jack Carson edged straight to the Australian at second slip without scoring, although Billy Root didn't do much better with a Hudson-Prentice uppercut at deep third that ended up going for six. Hudson-Prentice was in a mood to drive home the advantage, bounding along to his highest Sussex score before picking out mid-off for 73 off 64.
It had meant to be a Steven Smith day at Hove. As part of their Ashes build-up, Sky Sports got James Anderson and Stuart Broad to consult an Artificial Intelligence programme on ways to dismiss Smith - which yielded such piercing insights as "bowl a tight line and length" and "use strategic field placement". But if machine learning has picked up anything useful from Smith's three-week stint in the Championship, it will have been to try to hit his pads and appeal accordingly, such has been the alacrity with which umpires on the circuit have raised a finger.
On this occasion, Martin Saggers was the official to send Smith on his way. The Australian had already received a life, a low edge to first slip off compatriot Michael Neser put down by Timm van der Gugten (who plays for Netherlands but, like Smith, was born in New South Wales) having added just a single to his overnight 68. But after hooking James Harris for six earlier in the over, he was struck on the back pad looking to defend; Smith looked like he had got outside the line of off stump, but Saggers thought otherwise. Asked by a fan for his view on the dismissal while doing the rounds at lunch, Smith replied with a smile: "Pretty much out if there was five stumps."
Coles took centre stage in Smith's absence, and his efforts added to the sense that Sussex may have finally hit upon the right blend of youth and experience to mount a promotion bid. They are well placed for a win here that would push them to the top of Division Two but know it will require some hard yakka, having finished on top on both of their previous fixtures - rain-affected away trips to Worcestershire and Leicestershire - but unable to secure victory.
Robinson took the one wicket to fall, Ed Byrom pulling firmly but straight to the leaping Carson midwicket. Sussex thought they had dismissed Byrom when he had made 37, only for the square-on umpire, Rob White, to request a conversation with Cheteshwar Pujara, Sussex's captain, on whether the catch had been cleanly taken by wicketkeeper Carter, diving to his left; the upshot of which was Byrom resuming his innings.

Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick