There was genuine hope for Sussex at Hove against Nottinghamshire in the opening round of the LV= County Championship at the halfway stage. Innings of promise from Tom Clark with a maiden century and fifties for Tom Haines and Ali Orr were usurped as Notts cruised to a ten-wicket victory with over an hour to spare.
Notts, who are overwhelming favourites for promotion to Division One, were on the ropes, finding themselves 52 for four. Centuries from skipper Steve Mullaney (192) and Joey Evison (109*) ensured a turnaround that put Notts on the front foot as day three came to a close.
For the first time in the game, Notts were in the driving seat. However, it would still take a patient bowling performance on day four on what still looked like a good surface.
Sussex were effectively a man down with Dan Ibrahim ruled out of the rest of the game with a shoulder injury. Notts would be without Luke Fletcher, who would have been ready for the task of grinding down the Sussex response.
Sussex resumed 130 runs behind, and Ali Orr again looked solid and compact, facing 161 balls for 45. He would be the key to the home side’s chances of ending the game honours even.
During the morning session, he found good company in Jamie Atkins, the nightwatchman, who was up to the task of staying in the middle. However, Atkins eventually ran out of patience and tried to pull Lyndon James for six over the short legside boundary only to find the grateful hands of Calvin Harrison, the substitute fielder.
Sussex still didn’t need to be too worried at that point, the middle-order batted well in the first innings, and there was no reason they couldn’t do it again. However, that started to change when Tom Alsop chased a wide delivery from James on his Sussex debut and was comfortably pouched by Tom Moores behind the stumps.
With Sussex still in arrears, Nottinghamshire could attack from the Cromwell Road End while Liam Patterson-White bowled from the Sea End; allowed the luxury of men around the bat, the left-arm spinner was miserly going for fewer than two runs an over. Tom Clark, who batted well in the first innings, was well caught at slip by Mullaney; Clark had started to advance down the track and changed his intent halfway down, finding the edge, and Mullaney still saw enough of the ball through batter and wicketkeeper to hold on.
Pattinson-White would finish with match figures of eight for 138 as Sussex couldn’t hold on much past tea despite Steve Finn and Henry Crocombe batting for 78 balls to take Sussex past Notts first innings score and at least making their batters require 14 runs before the long trip home.
Haseeb Hameed then peeled three fours from successive balls from the end of the second over, and Notts were ready to celebrate as they secured the winning runs in the next over.
Sussex should take some heart from their performance and, with the arrival of their overseas signings, should play some competitive cricket.