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12th Match, Hove, April 19 - 22, 2024, County Championship Division Two
417 & 205
(T:144) 479 & 144/6

Sussex won by 4 wickets


Gloucestershire batters take first-innings foothold at Sussex

Fifties for James Bracey, Ben Charlesworth and Miles Hammond give visitors something to smile about

Alan Gardner
Alan Gardner
Ben Charlesworth cuts firmly during his half-century, Sussex vs Gloucestershire, County Championship, Division Two, Hove, April 19, 2024

Ben Charlesworth cuts firmly during his half-century  •  Getty Images

Gloucestershire 319 for 8 (Bracey 69, Charlesworth 62, Hammond 56) vs Sussex
Gloucestershire, recipients of the wooden spoon last season, have not won a County Championship fixture since September 2022. Their last red-ball win over Sussex, meanwhile, came almost 20 years ago, when the current head coach, Mark Alleyne, was in the twilight of his playing career. Phil Weston top-scored at Arundel with 81 while Jon Lewis - a Gloucestershire legend who ended up in Hove - took 8 for 100 in a nine-wicket win.
They could be forgiven, then, for not relishing this trip to the seaside. But Alleyne, who returned for his second spell in charge over the winter and is trying to rebuild confidence, will have been quietly encouraged by his side's performance here. After losing the toss and being inserted on a chilly, changeable spring morning, Gloucestershire battled through the interruptions to give themselves a first-innings foothold in the face of the jinkin', jivin' Dukes: Ben Charlesworth, Miles Hammond and James Bracey - one of the heroes of last week's rescue act against Yorkshire - all produced fifties of notable pugnacity.
Sussex had the best of their two draws in the opening rounds of the season to sit top of the early standings, and there seems to be increasing optimism at Hove that Paul Farbrace can put together a side capable of securing promotion. They were able to call on Ollie Robinson, a bowler looking to make a statement about his England credentials, after he sat out last week's trip to Leicester. But while Robinson went wicketless, his frustrations compounded by seeing Bracey dropped, it is perhaps a mark of Sussex's development that they found contributions from other quarters.
While the Dukes, in this case, did not fly back and forth like the waltzer on Brighton pier, Sussex chipped away, chiefly through the efforts of Danny Lamb, Jayden Seales and Jack Carson, who shared seven wickets. A century stand between Charlesworth and Hammond provided the main plank for Gloucestershire before Bracey steered them to a brace of batting points before the close.
Rob Key, England men's managing director of cricket, had described the experiment with the Kookaburra in the first two rounds of the Championship as "fantastic" and expanded on his views while talking to Michael Atherton and Nasser Hussain on the Sky Sports Cricket podcast. Essentially, he said, the less-biddable Australian ball encouraged faster bowlers and spinners at the expense of those classical English seamers who bring the keeper up and nip it around at 75mph and below. There was mention of Darren Stevens - the former Kent allrounder whose reign of medium-paced terror began under Key's captaincy - but not a favourable one.
We can easily imagine Key's reaction then, as the return of the Dukes coincided with scoreboard wickets columns rattling into life up and down the country, with the likes of Ben Sanderson, Shane Snater and Ryan Higgins threatening to run amok. In Hove, after fruitless opening spells from Sussex's two Test match seam bowlers, Robinson and Seales, it was Lamb who made the breakthroughs with his nibbly mediums. Little more than an hour into the day, John Simpson was stood up behind the stumps as Lamb applied the shackles to Gloucestershire's top order. Fynn Hudson-Prentice was next into the attack, followed by Tom Clark. At which point, presumably, Key would have closed the livestream window.
This, of course, is not to denigrate Lamb, whose opening analysis of 8-1-19-2 reflected the threat he brought to proceedings after Charlesworth, opening in place of the injured Chris Dent, and Cam Bancroft had ticked along comfortably enough during a stand worth 49. The former Lancashire allrounder scored a century up at Leicestershire and already looks a shrewd signing. He had Bancroft lbw as he shuffled across to one angling in and then saw Ollie Price taken at second slip on the drive after coaxing some movement away from right-hander.
Later, after squally showers led to an extended lunch break, Gloucestershire opted to take a more assertive approach to Lamb and his brethren. Hammond lofted him over mid-off and followed up with a slap that flew all the way over extra cover; Charlesworth then went to his half-century with a dismissive leg-side flick off Hudson-Prentice that sailed out towards the scoreboard for another six.
Hammond had just followed suit in striking Hudson-Prentice over midwicket when the partnership came to an end as Jack Carson found some turn in his third over to trap the Gloucestershire No. 4 in front. Seales then struck with the first ball of his fourth spell, finally inducing an error outside off stump from Charlesworth. The West Indies bowler celebrated by charging off towards backward point, and generally bowled better than figures of 2 for 72 would suggest, having also seen Hammond badly dropped by Clark at second slip when he had made just 17.
Sussex's other blemish in the field was even more costly. Three balls after being swatted dismissively for four, Robinson found Bracey's outside edge only for a low catch to be grassed by James Coles at third slip. Bracey was on 23 at the time, and had progressed to 69 by the time Seales finally won an lbw decision as the shadows lengthened.

Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick

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County Championship Division Two