At the match: Sussex v Middlesex

A Shark. And a shark. – (C) Jon Smalldon 2016, all rights reserved

Sussex 222-7 (32 overs) beat Middlesex 191ao (30.4 overs) by 31 runs.

“How can a nineteen year old play cricket?” asked my incredulous eight year old as Phil Salt came out to bat.  He was so curious he made me look up on my phone (the 21st century answer to consulting the Playfair guide) the Sussex player’s vital statistics. Yes, he is 19. Yes, this was only his second ‘List A’ game.  And, yes, seventy-odd balls later he’d pounded 81 runs and, as part of a score of 222 in a rain-shortened 32 over contest, put the match out of reach of Middlesex and set up Sussex’s first one-day win since 2014.  Not bad going.

The Royal London One Day Cup is hard-to-love competition. It’s not the joyous explosion of T20 and it’s not the real thing, unlike the Championship.  It’s not even the real heir to the old days of Benson & Hedges and NatWest Trophies.  It’s just there.  But on days like today it can feel just about perfect.  Sussex and Middlesex served up a genuinely exciting contest – even if the final score implies a relatively comfortable home win.

There was much to enjoy. Not just Phil Salt’s headline-grabbing performance.  Ross Taylor, aided by a runner, added 54 off 44 balls and got himself out by deciding to go forth only in maximums.  And then in Middlesex’s chase we had some beautiful stroke-play from Brendan McCullum and Eoin Morgan before both departed and left Middlesex floundering.  Even then there was the return of injured bowler Tom Helm (another runner required) defiantly staying in as the Sussex attack sought the final wicket.  That wicket fell to Chris Jordan who returned career best figures of 5-28.

I’m willing to bet that everyone here enjoyed themselves and the beauty of the English cricket season is that there will be plenty more opportunities for everyone to do so again in all formats of the game as what passes for our summer rolls on.  My incredulous eight year old is desperate to see more and, you know what, I might just be persuaded to take him – even if all that’s on offer is the good old, hard-to-love, Royal London One Day Cup.

 

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