Jofra Archer took an electrifying hattrick in the final over at the home of cricket as Sussex clinched victory over Middlesex to respond just 24 hours after their much-lauded bowling unit were put to the sword by Gloucestershire.
The first of Archer’s wickets was that of England limited-overs captain Eoin Morgan and it was a clear demonstration of the exhilarating pace and raw talent that has made the right-arm seamer a global T20 superstar over the last 12 months.
On paper, Sussex’s bowling attack is one of the most exciting units in world T20 cricket. But against Gloucestershire just a day before, it didn’t go to plan for Jason Gillespie’s men.
The fans had arrived at Hove for that bowling attack: Tymal Mills, Jofra Archer, Chris Jordan, David Wiese, Rashid Khan, Danny Briggs. And nobody could blame them; few IPL attacks can boast as much talent in their squads. However, it was Gloucestershire seamer David Payne who stunned the Sharks with a magnificent display of new-ball bowling before Sussex stuttered to a sub-par 127. Gloucestershire knocked off the runs despite a valiant effort from Khan, who shone all the more brightly for his teammates’ ineptitude.
The pitch at Hove had promised runs, and so in the early stages did the batting: Phil Salt struggled to get Payne away in the first over, but Luke Wright muscled some early boundaries to get Sussex’s innings underway.
It was Payne’s second over that turned the match in Gloucestershire’s favour: Salt was run out by a direct hit from Michael Klinger, and Wright slapped the very next ball straight into the air, giving Tye an easy catch. Laurie Evans batted out the double-wicket maiden, and he watched helplessly from the other end as Tom Bruce nicked off in Payne’s third over, and Michael Burgess mistimed Tye’s third ball to be caught rather spectacularly by Kieran Noema-Barnett.
Sussex fans had hoped to see plenty of Archer, but perhaps watching him arrive at the crease in the eleventh over with his side 56-5 was a little earlier than they had expected.
Evans was Sussex’s survivor and threatened at times to nudge them towards a competitive total. Noema-Barnett’s bits-and-pieces medium pace yielded three authoritative boundaries in the thirteenth over. He, too, perished for just 46 when he misread the pace of Tom Smith and was caught by Benny Howell.
Sussex managed just one boundary, a mighty, clean swipe by Jofra Archer, in the final seven overs. It is a statistic that typifies an innings that lacked conviction, confidence, and adaptability throughout.
Gloucestershire’s bowlers stuck to their plans; that was the key to their success. Once everything started going wrong, Sussex stuck to their plans; that was the key to their failure.
Sussex’s nightmare continued in the opening of the Gloucestershire innings. Having watched the visitors excel with an array of slower balls and cutters, Mills fired his thunderbolts at young Miles Hammond, who knew very little about Mills’ first over, but took 14 runs off it.
While Sussex were choking in the first innings, Jason Gillespie was in the Sky pod cooing over the talent, character, and temperament of Rashid Khan. With his first ball, the Afghan teenager had the Gloucestershire captain Klinger caught behind. He had 1-4 off his first over.
Sussex’s problems in the field were clear in the next over when Mills, still striving impotently to draw pace out of the pitch, gave Hammond another easy four ball. It was Khan on the boundary who dived to his full length, hurting himself slightly in an impossible and unnecessary cause. Mills had given the batsman buckets of pace to work with, and Khan could do little to save his side.
And of course, Khan picked up another wicket in his second over with a googly.
Sussex never had enough runs on the board, but the way the fast bowlers resolutely failed to learn the lessons of the first innings should be part of Gillespie’s post-mortem. The game ebbed away from the home side, and whenever Khan put pressure on, a loose delivery from Jordan, Archer, or Mills released it and kept Gloucestershire relaxed. They have a much-vaunted bowling attack, but only one member of it turned up on the night – Khan ended up with 2-14 off his full four-over quota.
If Sussex fans came to see an excellent performance from Rashid Khan, they got exactly what they wanted. If they came to see Sussex put in a performance that did anything resembling justice to the immense talent of their squad, they will be going home bitterly disappointed.
And so they will have been especially delighted to see such a strong response at Lord’s. Inspired by Archer, a victory over Middlesex is an excellent result for Sussex and keeps them in a strong position to fight for a quarter-final place.
Archer and Khan will be crucial to those hopes, both showing over these two nights just why they are regarded, all over the world, as two of the finest T20 exponents.