After 15 overs of the Sussex Sharks’ innings, this match was all but over. In reply to a strong total of 185-4 from Gloucestershire, Sussex were floundering at 104-6, needing 82 runs off 30 deliveries. Their only faint hope was that captain Luke Wright was still there, approaching his fifty which he reached off 38 balls.
The bare facts are that, from that point, it took Wright just another 18 balls to advance to 111 not out and to win the match by three wickets off the penultimate delivery. He not only pulled off a miracle win, he also had a good go at demolishing the newly-completed flats beyond the straight boundary, striking at least five different windows on the second and third floors. Overall, he hit eight sixes and seven fours. The next highest score was 18 by Craig Cachopa.
The nineteenth over of the Sussex innings was the real turning point. Thirty-four runs came off it; and although James Fuller bowled six deliveries, the last of them was a no-ball, after which he retired injured. Craig Miles had to bowl the final ball to complete the over and Wright hit it into the flats.
Gloucestershire will no doubt reflect on whether they could have bowled differently at Luke Wright, but it really didn’t seem to matter. Wherever they pitched the ball, it was likely to disappear over the boundary.
Up until his disastrous third over, James Fuller had actually bowled well, taking two early wickets. He trapped Chris Nash lbw and had Matt Machan caught off a leading edge. Tom Smith took his wicket tally in the competition this year to 18 and Benny Howell’s cheap dismissal of George Bailey seemed, at the time, crucial in tipping the game towards the home team. Jack Taylor, too, had seemed to have contained things well in the middle overs but even he at the death was unable to stop Sussex making the nine needed off the last over.
Earlier, Gloucestershire had posted a challenging total of 185 after light rain had caused a 30 minute delay to the start but, sensibly, no reduction in overs. Once the match began, it was played in bright evening sunshine on a good pitch.
Michael Klinger and Hamish Marshall shared a well-paced opening stand of 88 off 64 balls before Marshall was caught by Luke Wright at mid-on off Tymal Mills. He hit four fours and a six in his 37 off 27 balls. The real impetus in the innings then came from Klinger and Ian Cockbain who added 42 in four overs.
The Sussex slower bowlers had mixed fortunes. Michael Yardy, who bowled four consecutive dots to Klinger in his first over, was harshly punished in his next two overs and overall conceded 41 off three overs. Will Beer, on the other hand, went for only 24 runs off his four overs. He managed just three dot balls but, remarkably, conceded no boundaries.
Chris Liddle dismissed Klinger for 61 in the fifteenth over, part-time wicket-keeper Craig Cachopa holding on to a massive skier. Klinger retired from the scene with 61 off 51 balls, not his most explosive effort, but still important for his team. Tymal Mills cut short Ian Cockbain’s hitting when he played on after hitting three sixes in his cameo of 30 off 16 balls and the final flourishes to the innings were left to Benny Howell, Geraint Jones and, briefly, Kieron Noema-Barnett, whose innings was effective if somewhat shorter than his name.
Man of the Match – who should I give it to? Well, I think it just about has to be Sussex Sharks’ skipper Luke Wright, just because he happens to be my namesake – oh, and there was the little matter of his innings, one of the best match-winnings knocks you could ever hope to see.