As the Brighton Marathon wended its way down Marine Parade, Essex ran the hard yards and will be pleased to have restricted Sussex to 355-8 on the end of the first day of their County Championship game at Hove.
Chris Nash and Ed Joyce shared an opening stand of 188, but they consistently lost wickets in the afternoon and evening sessions which stymied their progress.
The first hour was dominated by the home side, batting for the first time this season after a chastening first game at Northampton.
Nash survived a few nervous moments early on, edging twice through the slip cordon before Jesse Ryder floored a fine catching chance at third slip from the outside edge of Ed Joyce’s bat.
Nash soon raced onto 30, profiting from some wayward bowling from Matt Dixon. He struck three successive boundaries off the Western Australian, clipping the first two confidently off his legs and driving the third through the vacant cover region.
Nash, who only reached 50 four times last season, was backed by the club with a new contract over the winter. He brought up his brisk half-century from 52 balls with a clip into the leg side off Ryder.
Ryder’s run-up consists of four or five strides and all of the momentum in his action comes through his shoulders at point of delivery. He swung the ball well though and showed more control than Dixon and at times Jamie Porter whose spells varied in length and quality.
Joyce was altogether more circumspect, although after his partner reached the milestone he raised the speed of his innings slightly with some off side boundaries.
There is a certain expectancy about the Sussex membership this season and the opening session of this game, which ended with the hosts 112 without loss only quelled this on a bright morning by the south coast.
Nash is a compact, nuggety cricketer who is mobile at the crease, dealing in a currency of forces off the front foot and intelligent back foot play. He brought up his century, an act which was met by a particular roar from the Sussex membership; they know how much of an asset this opening pair could be in Division Two.
Essex toiled in the sun on a surface that looks in tremendous shape for April. The introduction of Ryan ten Doeschate into the attack meant they would not be left to rue Ryder’s drop any longer. He drew an edge from Joyce on 66 to make it 188-1.
Nash went two balls later, pegged in front playing across the line for a fine 119. The innings was a fine tribute to Matt Hobden, in whose memory all of his former teammates wore the number 19.
Many around the ground expected Ross Taylor to come in shore things up but he fell foul of James Foster when the gloveman somehow took a low catch down to his left that had caught the inside edge with the New Zealander on 12.
Matt Machan and Luke Wells complemented each other well, contrasting styles and came together for 46 either side of tea, before Machan got tangled up down leg, played onto his pad back for Tom Westley to catch, although the Scottish international felt the ball hadn’t carried back to the bowler.
Sussex lost wickets in pairs and it happened again when Ben Brown got a good one from Graham Napier that got him out leg before for a five-ball duck.
Luke Wells was soon gone when he tried to cut a straight Westley ball and feathered one through to Jesse Ryder at slip.
Ollie Robinson and Ajmal Shahzad put on 50 to take their team past 300. Robinson issued a number of hefty hits to reach a half-century before Graham Napier trapped him in front.
George Garton came and went but Sussex ended the day on a healthy 355-8. Shahzad’s presence at the crease should allow them to rack up a few more runs tomorrow morning and put Alastair Cook’s Essex under pressure.