Tymal Mills is rapid. If T20 cricket had its own Match of the Day-style highlights show, Alan Hansen would be sitting in a room somewhere saying “he’s quick, he’s fast and he’s got pace.”
If was enough to get the Sky Sports team drooling over him. “Just give him one more over,” said Nasser Hussain and Rob Key. And it wasn’t difficult to see why.
Crowds flocked to see Chris Gayle in action for the first time this summer but, after a dismal IPL campaign in which he registered five consecutive single-figure scores, the disappointment seemed somewhat inevitable.
That fact was none more telling than after Mills’ first ball. Wasting no time in reaching 90mph, a man whose back injuries have almost forced him into a one-format bowler fizzed one past the West Indian’s outside edge. Oohs and aahs around Hove were deafening.
Ball two and Gayle, not unfamiliar with taking his time to fine tune his innings, was suddenly forced into rushing. A large flash outside off, sufficient contact off the edge to fly down a surprisingly vacant third man. Not convincing, but four runs.
The third ball he was not so lucky. Making room outside off, Gayle, believed to be the best batsman in T20 cricket, lost his leg stump and with that, Somerset were pretty much beaten at 7-2.
Nine balls into a chase may be somewhat premature to call a game dead, but with Sussex’s imperious 222-3 on the board, Somerset’s chase seemed a lost cause.
Indeed, for them to finish just 48 runs behind was a pretty notable effort from two other overseas pros in Mahela Jayawardena and Roelof van der Merwe. The former, perhaps not your go-to T20 batsmen, caressed and glided in classic Jayawardena style, while also taking advantage of the breeze and short Hove boundaries to make 51 from 34 balls.
Van der Merwe’s knock was more out of hope and a defiance to improve the net run-rate, but his five sixes in a 29-ball 59 was not to be sniffed at given the struggles of the rest of his side’s line-up. But not even he was immune from Mills’ pace, or lack of with a slower ball, as the last wicket to fall.
But for as poorly as Somerset batted, Sussex batted inversely well, notably due to sublimity from Chris Nash and the returning Luke Wright in a 156-run opening salvo four short of a T20 record for any wicket for the hosts.
You’d hardly believe Wright had spent the season out injured when, after allowing his partner to take the early striking, he delivered a masterclass of his own to smash 83 from just 39 balls, just about saving enough breath to join commentary duties afterwards.
Eight fours and five sixes later, Wright was finally out in the 14th over, with that Max Waller wicket coming fortuitously from an inside edge.
But Nash kept boshing his way on, reaching his 15th half-century before usurping his previous-best 88 against Hampshire last year. And he was not done there, taking Jamie Overton for six-four-four in successive legitimate deliveries to bring up three figures and a rapturous ovation from all packed into the nitty, pretty ground/
After berating Chris Jordan, who put down a sitter in the field later on, for not running a three, you could sense that Nash knew he was playing on a pitch where runs were an inevitability. A last-ball four off Yasir Arafat told you that, with 112 not out Nash’s eventual damage.
You sense still that there is more to come from this Sussex line-up. The handy dual-spin option of Will Beer and Danny Briggs looks set to cause many a batting side a headache, while Mustafizur Rahman is still to join after an impressive spell in the IPL.
It was a win which also came with Ross Taylor failing to contribute, while Ajmal Shahzad performed beyond his figures against the stiff breeze and Hove slope. But for now, they’re in good shape, and should they make use of the home advantage, then there’s no reason why they can’t make it to the last eight as a minimum.
As for Somerset, they just need to wait for a Gayle-storm.