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

Sussex won by 4 wickets

Report

Cheteshwar Pujara digs deepest as Sussex victory hints at brighter times to come

Gloucestershire make hosts sweat in low run-chase before Test class comes to the fore

Alan Gardner
Alan Gardner
22-Apr-2024
Cheteshwar Pujara brought up yet another century, this one on the second day of Sussex's match against Durham, Sussex vs Durham, County Championship Division 2, 2nd day, Hove, April 29, 2022

Cheteshwar Pujara was the nuggetty presence that Sussex needed to seal a tense chase  •  Getty Images

Sussex 479 (Pujara 86, Alsop 84, Lamb 83, Simpson 78, Clark 53) and 144 for 6 (Pujara 44*, Gohar 5-58) beat Gloucestershire 417 (Bracey 69, Charlesworth 62, Gohar 60, Hammond 56) and 205 (Hammond 77, Gohar 52, Seales 4-18) by four wickets
In the end, it was a scrape to victory. Having played the Tricky Third Innings card to leave Gloucestershire deep in a hole the previous evening, Sussex were made to work hard for the points on the final day. Obdurate batting from Miles Hammond and Zafar Gohar stretched the game out, leaving a target of 144 in 49 overs; Sussex then lost four wickets before they had got halfway. But in Cheteshwar Pujara, the home side had an ace up their sleeve. In a nervy finale, his unbeaten 44 trumped a tenacious five-for from Gohar.
There have been more False Dawns for Sussex in recent years than you might find at a lookalike convention for The Office characters. But after three rounds of the Championship - which, with better weather, might have produced three wins - they are the pace-setters in Division Two and look a tougher unit than was previously the case.
It was after beating Gloucestershire here in their final fixture of 2023, confirming Sussex's third-place finish, that head coach Paul Farbrace spoke of the need to add experienced recruits to a young squad that had nevertheless made significant strides, winning as many first-class matches (three) as they had managed in the three preceding summers. Danny Lamb, who had already agreed a move from Lancashire, and John Simpson fit the bill in that regard, and both have been prominent in Sussex's strong start.
Farbrace has not been afraid to ruffle feathers in a bid to shift the club out of its discomfort zone - the decision to let Ali Orr leave over the winter caused consternation, while Chris Adams, the title-winning former Sussex captain, and Ian Gould, another Hove stalwart, both quit advisory roles after being sidelined - but he has also conceded that he didn't get everything right in his first season, vowing in particular to give the players greater responsibility for how they approach games.
Simpson, installed as captain, has set the tone in the field, unflappable with the gloves and in career-best form with the bat. In each of their three games this season, Sussex have responded to solid first-innings totals by their opponents - Northamptonshire made 371, Leicestershire 338 and Gloucestershire 417 - with even more substantial efforts. They nearly burgled a result after triggering a similar collapse against Northants, then saw a commanding position washed away by the rain at Leicester (where Simpson made 205 not out and Lamb 134 in a total of 694 for 9 declared).
This time Sussex were not to be denied, although Gohar did his single-handed best. Gloucestershire's left-arm spinner took the new ball (perhaps in part because his side were behind the over-rate) and struck in his second, third, seventh and eighth overs to leave the scoreboard reading 70 for 4. Gloucestershire thought Simpson had been caught at leg slip off Gohar when he had made just 2, but the fifth-wicket pair chipped 42 off the target before another wobble.
Having gone charging off trying to get the chase done, beneath lowering skies and the threat of rain, it was ultimately a nuggety, unbroken stand between Pujara and Lamb that hauled Sussex over the line.
"We weren't at our best at various times of the game but we now expect to win games," Farbrace said. "We have got a good balance in our team, we bat all the way down and we feel confident. It's nice to be top but it doesn't mean anything - we want to be top at the end of the season."
Gloucestershire went into Monday's play staring down the barrel, just 19 runs in front with four wickets standing - though with the memory of last week's escape against Yorkshire, when they batted through the final day for the loss of just two wickets, to fortify them. Hopes of a repeat rose through the morning, as Hammond and Gohar played sensibly and with few alarms to bat out the session.
Jack Carson was into the attack early and spin seemed the likeliest route to a Sussex breakthrough with the old ball. After bedding in, Hammond twice reverse-swept James Coles for boundaries before lofting the same bowler down the ground for six; a pull off Lamb went fizzing to the rope to raise his second half-century of the match.
In between those flashes of aggression, there was precious little to warm those Sussex supporters hunkered in their deckchairs. Carson turned one past Gohar's outside edge. Jayden Seales had Hammond fending the ball in the air but not to hand in front of square on the off side. With the session drawing to a close, Carson threated to dislodge Hammond with successive deliveries: an inside-edge saved him from lbw, before the absence of any bat allowed Gloucestershire's No. 4 to survive one turning through to the keeper.
With 75 runs added and no wickets lost, the visitors were perhaps halfway to making the game safe. The lead was approaching three figures, and if Hammond and Gohar could just take some shine off the second new ball… but the pairing didn't get that far. Shortly after the resumption, Carson's change of angle to over the wicket accounted for Hammond, playing around one skidding on from a leg-stump line; two balls later, Dom Goodman was trapped by the ball spinning into him.
Sussex's relief was palpable, and although Zaman Akhter swung the bat merrily again to help add 39 to the target, Seales needed just two deliveries after belatedly being given a go with the new ball to snuff out the resistance. Those in the deckchairs could sit a little more easily. By the time Lamb hit the winning runs some three hours later, they were doubtless comfortably numb.

Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick

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