Brian Pollard reports live from the PROBIZ County Ground. Sussex got their Friends Life t20 campaign off to the best possible start with a thoroughly professional 32-run over an outplayed Essex at Hove.
Essex won the toss and put their hosts into bat.
Luke Wright had only faced seven balls when he popped one up for England colleague Ravi Bopara to scoop inches off the ground at cover. Tim Southee was the bowler.
Chris Nash and Murray Goodwin then put on 71 in 7.1 overs before Nash was trapped in front by Tim Phillips for 43.
Goodwin was dropped by Bopara off the first ball delivered by Ryan ten Doeschate, the Essex man spilling a similar chance to the one he had taken to dismiss Wright. And Goodwin, fresh off the back of a massive double century against Yorkshire, celebrated his escape by creaming successive fours to the boundary. He subsequently reached his half century in 37 balls, fittingly with a cute four guided down to wide of third man. But he was on his way back to the pavilion soon after, adjudged lbw out off the bowling of Phillips. And his partner in a stand of 61, Lou Vincent, followed him back into the hutch almost immediately when he holed out to Graham Napier to become Phillips’ third victim of the innings. He finished with 3-31 off his four overs as Sussex posted what at the time seemed a middling 173-4 in their 20 overs. With only four wickets down in the whole innings the hosts would have expected to plunder more than the 72 runs they made in the final nine overs, having picked up 101 in the first 11.
But the total proved more than enough thanks to a quality display of bowling from Sussex.
Monty Panesar bowled the first over of Essex’s run chase, being clumped for four off the third ball but conceding just the seven runs in the over.
Vincent came close to a direct hit run out to dismiss Mark Pettini in the next over, which was bowled by Parnell and went for just five. And Chris Liddle was superb in the third over, beating the bat more than once if also conceding the second boundary of Essex’s innings.
The first wicket went down in over No.4, the stumps being splayed as Bopara swung and missed a full length ball from Parnell.
All the Sussex bowlers were doing well to keep the Essex run rate down and the pressure told when Rana Naved clean bowled Pettini for 20 in the eight over, with the vistitors still only on 47.
And Yardy followed suit in the following over when he castled Owais Shah for 23 as the former England batsman tried to slog the Sussex skipper through the off side.
It got even better for Sussex the over after that when Monty, returning to the attack for his second over, had ten Doeschate caught on the boundary by Naved for just 6.
Essex were struggling at 60-4 at the halfway stage, with another 114 needed in their second 10 overs if they were to pull off an unlikely win.
Another wicket in Panesar’s next over didn’t exactly help their cause as Matt Walker holed out to Parnell in cow corner.
Essex began to hit out as the run rate required shot up, and Rana should have caught James Foster coming in from the boundary but the Pakistan pace bowler spilled the steepling chance.
But it mattered little as soon after Scott Styris, going well on 47 off 28 balls, was out caught Nash off the bowling of Rana. Three balls later Napier went off his first ball when caught by Nash off Rana, before the Pakistani trapped Foster lbw with the very next ball. Rana’s hat-trick ball, an attempted yorker, squirted off the bat down the leg side, but by now it was just a matter of time before Sussex sealed the victory and the ninth wicket went down for 141 with just one over and one ball left when Southee was caught by Yardy off Parnell. The very first ball of the last over saw Rana clinch the win by clean bowling Chris Wright first ball. It ensured Rana returned his best ever t20 figures with 5-17 off 3.1 overs and rounded off a thoroughly dominant display by the south coast men.