Sussex stormed ahead against Middlesex on their first ever visit to Radlett CC.
The south coast club negotiated blistering winds and injury concerns to finish the day 293 all out, poised ahead of Middlesex going into the second day.
A sturdy 69 from Sussex number three Harry Finch and a run-a-ball 46 from Delray Rawlins left Middlesex deflated and in need of a big performance.
Sussex had only reached 200 twice in their previous Bob Willis Trophy encounters but following a sit down with Sir Alastair Cook following last week’s defeat to Essex, Sussex’s top order looked re energised.
Sussex head coach Jason Gillespie said: “We wanted 350 odd but we’re happy with our score. We played well. We got through some tough periods. We need to capitalise on good starts.
“We’ve got runs on the board and we know there’s enough on this surface to create problems.
“Ollie (Robinson) can’t wait, he’s very excited. He’s looking forward to getting out there and bowling.
“He’s been in the bubble and it’s been great for him. We’ve been excited for him.
“Thanks to the ECB for releasing him so he can get some cricket in.”
Having won the toss Ben Brown put Sussex in to bat. It took the visitors nine overs to strike their first boundary but Phil Salt and Tom Haines brought up their first 50 partnership of the Trophy in the 16th over.
The dangerous Salt’s time at the crease came to an end after 56 balls as he fell for 42 to the first ball from Martin Andersson, miscuing a pull shot to Middlesex debutant Blake Cullen at fine leg.
However, Sussex’s success continued and they reached lunch at 80-1.
Unfortunately for Haines, a back spasm occurred while he played a forward defensive shot off Thilan Walallawita and the opener had to retire hurt. Thankfully he was able to return at the end of play with the aid of a runner.
That brought Tom Clark to the crease and had an immediate impact striking two boundaries off spinner Walallawita immediately.
But, after ten balls the Sussex number four became Cullen’s maiden wicket courtesy of a stunning diving catch from Sam Robson at second slip.
The visitors continued to build a strong first innings total in the second session. A partnership of 63 between Sussex skipper Brown and Finch took the Sussex total past 150.
Brown made a solid start but looped one up on 26 ending his 65 ball stay at the crease.
Finch was not disrupted by the wickets falling around him and continued in dominant fashion after tea. A perfect off drive brought up his second half century of the tournament.
The Sussex number three was once again unable to convert and nicked off on 69 to provide Cullen with his second wicket.
A second wicket came for Middlesex nineteen balls later as Andersson had Aaron Thomason pinned lbw for 10.
Middlesex railed, roaring into action taking 4-40 to prevent Sussex from making too much progress. Middlesex’s star bowler from their encounter with Kent, Miguel Cummins, took two wickets in two balls to keep the 300 barrier at bay.
However, Middlesex were unable to take the wicket of Rawlins and the number seven began picking apart the home attack. His onslaught included five fours and two sixes, one of which landed over the pavilion.
Finally Tim Murtagh had Will Sheffield out bowled to wrap up the Sussex innings for 293
Speaking after his debut Cullen said: “It was a thrilling moment getting my cap from Tim Murtagh, someone who is well respected by me and the team.
“When things aren’t going your way he knows exactly what to say and what plan is for you even when you don’t know what it is.
“I feel like I’ve learnt more today than I have done in the majority of the rest of the season in training. It felt like celebrating training and I’m glad for the opportunity.
“It was a good feeling to contribute to some extent. I think I got better throughout the day.”
Speaking about the diving catch that provided him with his first wicket, Cullen said: “I wasn’t quite sure if it was out so I didn’t give it the celebration it deserved. I was more in awe of the catch than focused on celebrating my first wicket.”