The challenge is to get Sussex promoted after five seasons languishing in the second tier. There was money to play with but my acquisitions have plunged us into the red. First time out we got destroyed by Durham before we pulled an escape so great that bloke with the trumpet will be playing it a tune against Worcestershire.
So, sixth versus fourth it is then. They’re coming off the back of an 86-run humbling by Glamorgan, we are coming off the back of a morale-boosting planting of Worcestershire. We welcome them to the south coast with optimism for the first time this season.
In team selection I sit on the train from home and brood. In the end, I take the tough decision to drop Monty. Old Panasar’s 9 wickets have cost 30 runs a-piece and he’s not offering much in the way of control either.
Now, I’m not suggesting that I’m not exactly a “details” coach but there are some slight selection issues when I fail to notice that Olly Robinson, sent in as nightwatchman last time out, is still at the top of the order.
So, of course, it’s normal opener Phillip Salt who gets out and we’re suddenly 12-1.
The big man does ok and makes 22 before getting caught leg before wicket by everyone’s favourite German Dieter Klein. 54-2
Stiaan van Syl gets settled in and I nudge his aggression up. I said this last time out but it remains true: I’m not really learning here – lbw Klein, 27. I stare towards the seafront and consider doing a Reggie Perrin.
Luke Wells makes a well-constructed 50 and we are cruising towards lunch. Of course Travis Head gets done and is out for 17, last over. 167-4 at tea.
My lad Georgey Munsey comes to the wicket.
Wells keeps on keeping on, before getting over excited and missing out on a ton by getting caught for 92 like a plank. 193-5.
Ravi strolls our to the wicket. Now would be a good time to make one of those “daddy hundreds” Graham Gooch was always telling the Essex boys about.
He is nearly out lbw for a golden duck but the umpire adjudges it to have struck outside the line.
Munsey, with a fluid 22 is looking good.
As soon as this thought is articulated in my mind, the classy left-hander tries one elegant cover drive too many and the ball squaffs the wrong way and he’s caught at short leg.
We end day one 277-6, Bopara and Ben Brown on 42* and 34* respectively.
Leicestershire like some aggressive field settings. Men around the bat and all sorts. I like that. It’ll make beating them all the sweeter.
Brown misses out on his half century, misreading Arron Lilley’s spin. He loses his middle stump for 44.
Bopara makes his 50 with a well run single.
At 340-7 I move Ravi’s aggression up. The plan is to bat hard until lunch and see what we can amass and try to put some pressure on the midlanders.
David Wiese – my little bowling all rounder legend – makes his 50 from 87 balls. Not a bad number 8 this bloke.
I nudge both their aggressions up again. I’ll go till the next one gets out or Ravi gets a century – whichever is first.
Bopara goes next ball for a well-taken 85. I give them the crooked finger.
Get your bowling boots on Wiesey old chap! 397-8 declared. I’ve not had the chance to declare with shower yet.
I’m feeling pretty smug, which is also a first. Maybe.
Fourth over of the day, Mitchell Claydon gets Janneman Malan lbw for 9. Leicestershire are 10-1.
Beer comes into the attack. I like Will Beer. Always have. He has a good looking shout against Hasan Azad turned down.
We up the bowling aggression, tinker with the field settings. Beer has another lbw turned down but Azad’s next defensive prod is snaffled and they’re 75-2.
Claydon gets in on the action again with a beautiful ball that nips back to get Dutchman Colin Ackermann for 33. We’re leading by 310 runs and they’re 87-3. I like the European flavour to this Leicestershire team.
First ball after tea, Wiese is back in the action, and this time his pace creates a dodgy defensive shot for Munsey who pouches it. Mark Cosgrove on his way for 7. 88-4
Paul Horton looks pretty comfortable. I tell Claydon to stick one right up him. He does and I think he snaps a rib. I rub my hands in glee.
Horton is ok to continue but you can’t have everything.
At the other end, Sam Evans misses a straight one from Beer and is bowled for 32.
Robinson lures Lewis Hill into a snick and Brown makes no mistake. 168-6.
Wiese, seriously beginning to look like a candidate for freedom of the city of Brighton and Hove, then bowls Horton for 44.
It’s been a gutsy innings and I am glad to see the back of him. 183-7 and they need 65 to avoid the follow on.
Wiese continues and has Lilley for 21 as Salt takes an unbelievable bootstrap catch at second slip. 200-8
They end day two, 209-8, 39 away from avoiding the follow on.
Wiese starts the day the way he ended the last. One lb turned down for swinging too much and then gets Klein for 3. 214-9, 34 to avoid the follow on.
He has a caught behind appeal to Gavin Griffiths waved away but gets him next ball for 29.
He’s got his five-for and he’s richly deserved it. His figures are: 16.3 overs-1-51-5 with an economy rate of 3.09. I may have a man crush.
I head to the Leicestershire dressing room. Steeling myself outside, I put on my most self-deprecating, bashful, shit-eating grin and enforce the follow on by inviting “the chaps” to have another go.
Immediately Wiese is again turned down for an LBW appeal – I’m beginning to think he may have defiled the umpire’s daughter at some stage and neglected to mention it – but Robinson snicks off Azad for 6 the next over. He’s caught by… guess who?
Beer also has several decent chances turned down before Claydon, who Malan has begun to slap around, snicks one through to Brown and Leics are 79-2. We’ll have to bat again, for sure, but it’s not even lunch yet. I’ve known worse positions to be in.
Ackermann begins hitting us all over the park before Munsey dives full bore to catch him for 57. They’re 160-3.
Cosgrove, who has been very fluid for his 66 off 87, mistimes an attempt at a sweep off Beer and Salt takes a great catch. 184-4
I sling the ball back to Wiese. Horton goes second ball. 213-5 Possibly with an adoring puppy dog stare of longing.
Claydon, who always looks by the end of his fourth over like he’s about to puke with exhaustion, also has a knack of getting a wicket in that over. Bad news for his longevity and – possibly our relationship.
However, he does himself no favours as it happens again and he gets Evans to plop one out to Munsey for 15. 229-6
In fairness, as we take the new ball and run down towards the end of the day, Leics do some good work, knocking us around and building a lower order partnership.
229-6 progresses to 320-6.
They lead by 156 and we’ll have to chase around 200 on a fourth day pitch with cloudy overhead conditions. We’ll still have a job to do, as the media trained automatons at international level say.
Cricket, eh? A game of quandaries.
Claydon, Beer and Wiese do a decent job but the Leics’ tail wags a little. They go from 329-7 to 377 all out.
We need 213 to win at 12:15. The chase, as they say in the sort of cheesy 80s buddy cop films they don’t make enough of these days, is on.
As is the way of things, Wells goes lbw to Klein for 11. At lunch we are 29-1. Robinson, still batting way too high at 3, survives two – two! – really good lbw shouts.
He finally goes to Griffith for a caught and bowled for 6. 45-2
Salt brings up his 50, milking the exhausted Griffiths. 85-2.
Salt and van Syl settle in before the big South African allows himself to be bowled for 26 off Klein for absolutely no rhyme or reason. Still, 115-3, 98 runs to go.
Lilley decides to come around the wicket to Salt. Those two are into a cat and mouse game.
He survives a caught behind appeal and then tonks him through mid off for 4. I cheer from the balcony.
Tea and we’re 155-3. Salt on 92* and Travis Head doing ok on 16.
Salt survives another lbw appeal, which looked good to be honest, but he and Head continue ticking over.
Salt’s 105 takes 148 balls before Griffiths finally gets him. 189-4 and we need 24 runs.
Munsey comes in, intending to blaze and I edge up Head’s aggression. Travis’ 50 is the winning run and we win by 6 wickets.
This has definitely been our best performance of my time in charge, as early as that is. This is the first time our bowling has matched the potential in our batting.
Wiese is awarded the Man of the Match – and boy has he earned it – and we are fifth in the table.
The rise of Sussex is on.