Holders Gloucestershire beat Sussex by 51 runs at Cheltenham to record their second Royal London One- Day Cup win of the campaign. In a tense, low- scoring affair Gloucestershire scored 242/8 in their 50 overs. In reply Sussex were all out for 191.
Defending a total that looked some way under par, Gloucestershire bowled and fielded superbly: their star performer being former Sussex slow left-armer Tom Smith who took 4/26 in ten tight overs. Smith was also a major contributor to the home side’s innings, second top-scoring with a solid 43 not out which pushed his side to a total which proved to be enough on the day.
On a cloudy morning, Sussex won the toss and fielded. The visitors were without young Bangladeshi bowling ace Mustafizur Rahman, who missed out with a shoulder niggle. He was replaced by Jofra Archer, a young right-arm seamer from Barbados playing his first List A game for Sussex.
Chris Dent was the first Gloucestershire batsman to fall, caught at slip for ten from Archer. Ian Cockbain, recently in prolific form in the T20, was caught behind off Ajmal Shahzad for eight in the ninth over and at the end of the first Power Play Gloucestershire were 49/2 with Michael Klinger not out 25.
The return of Chris Jordan at the College Lawn End saw him bowl Hamish Marshall for 11, with one that cut into him – Gloucestershire 66/3. In the 22nd over the hosts lost their talisman Klinger, lbw to leg-spinner Will Beer for 46.
With Gloucestershire 101/4 the game was evenly poised but on 137/5 in the 30th over Beer, who was bowling an excellent spell, had Benny Howell caught behind for 19. Sussex had their noses in front, more so when Chris Jordan did Graeme van Buuren for pace to bowl him leg stump for a valuable 38 to make Gloucestershire 155/6.
Kieran Noema-Barnett and Smith mixed caution with increasing enterprise as they pushed the score to 197 with six overs remaining, but then Noema-Barnett holed out to long-off off Danny Briggs for 29. Smith continued wth a valuable effort, twice reverse sweeping to the mid-wicket boundary. He was joined by stand- in wicketkeeper Patrick Grieshaber, deputising for the injured Gareth Roderick. The pair added an excellent 45, Grieshaber falling to the last ball of the innings for 20, Smith was unbeaten on a precious 43.
Gloucestershire’s 242 seemed to be a long way short of a winning total on a decent pitch and a quick-scoring ground, a ground where they recorded 212 in 20 overs the previous Sunday.
The Sussex bowling was admirable. Beer bowled his full allocation for a miserly 2/38. Jordan took an excellent 3/55 and there was a good debut performance by Archer who, after an uncertain start, bowled with great control to take 1/48.
Sussex got off to a shaky start, Matt Taylor getting Ed Joyce to clip a catch to mid-wicket in his second over.
When Philip Salt gloved a catch behind off Craig Miles for 9 Sussex were wobbling at 19/2. At 43/3 Sussex were in more trouble as Luke Wright, after four powerfully driven boundaries, lofted to mid-off from a ball that Taylor held back. The large Cheltenham crowd began to believe that this might be their day, as Chris Nash chopped on in Smith’s first over to make Sussex 59/4.
Harry Finch and wicketkeeper Ben Brown set about steadying the Sussex reply and, at the 25 over half way mark, Sussex were 99/4 with Finch 32 and Brown on 23. In this fascinating game the balance was changing as this pair cautiously steered Sussex nearer to their target, but the advantage changed again as Brown was caught off Howell in the 32nd over for a well made 39, the South Coast side 129/5. Finch reached his patient 50, from 88 balls.
Jordan, after a start that held promise for Sussex, was caught behind from the excellent Smith at 157/6 as the third Power Play approached and the odds were very much in the home side’s favour.
Archer quickly perished, caught and bowled by Smith from a skier, and when Shahzad became Smith’s fourth victim, caught at square leg for 3, the game looked up for Sussex. Beer was run out and Howell bowled Briggs to leave Finch stranded on an excellent 87 and the Cheltenham Festival had reached the conclusion most in the crowd wanted.
All the Gloucestershire bowlers supported Smith well, the wicketless Noema- Barnett bowling a tight spell of six overs for 20 particularly catching the eye.
After the game Finch told the Sussex website that he felt batting wasn’t easy, as in the middle overs the ball was turning and sticking in the pitch. From 59/4 he thought that it would be difficult for Sussex.
The win means that Gloucestershire’s hopes in the 50 over competition are still alive, despite the fact they are still eighth in the South Group on four points. For Sussex this defeat leaves them still anchored at the foot of the table with just two points. Their Royal London One- Day Cup campaign looks all but over.