Sussex 400 for 7 (Brown 116, Wiese 89, Finch 82) v Derbyshire
Sussex have a T20 quarter-final on Friday, but such is the nature of the English season that their immediate task is to blank it out. T20? Never heard of it. The emphasis is back on their promotion challenge in the Championship and 400 in a day against Derbyshire represented a job well done for a county currently lying second, seven points behind Warwickshire.
It helped Sussex to have Ben Brown around to aid the transition. Brown does not have to blank out T20; T20 has blanked him. He has not played a game for Sussex all season, a well-meant enforced rest for a captain/wicketkeeper facing heavy demands in the other two formats, formats where his record is strikingly better. Itching to play some meaningful cricket, he struck his first Championship hundred of a highly-consistent season.
It also helped Sussex that Derbyshire were looking somewhat ramshackle. Harvey Hosein, their young wicketkeeper, dislocated a finger in practice before the start so Wayne Madsen had to don the gloves while Daryl Smit travelled down from Derby. By the time he took the field at 10 to 4, Brown was on the verge of his first Championship hundred in a highly-consistent season.
Smit had mixed feelings: his wife is pregnant and that was most on his mind on a relaxing Sunday morning. “I was lying on the sofa with my wife, hearing my baby boy breath through her tummy – hearing him for the first time – and five minutes later I got the call from Derbyshire,” he said. “And five minutes after that I was backing out of the drive for the four-hour drive down to Hove. I don’t think my wife was too impressed.”
There is also trouble at t’mill. Kim Barnett’s premature departure as cricket consultant because he felt cricket specialists were suffering too much interference (a regular Barnett refrain over the years) has left the county interviewing for a coach with the season far from spent; Dave Houghton, who has done the job once before, is among those shortlisted. The experiment with a specialist T20 coaching team – John Wright and Dominic Cork – is not certain to continue.
Disagreements at Derbyshire are nothing new. If the club was run by only one person, they would automatically develop a split personality just so they could argue with themselves. In small clubs like Derbyshire, rich men can become all-powerful very quickly. That power needs to be used responsibly and that has not always been the case.
Madsen is interesting Yorkshire, who are attracted by the reliability he brings in all competitions, the fact he will be 35 next season seemingly not an issue.
But attention at Hove rested largely on Brown, another salt-of-the earth county performer. He made light of his month without a first-team fixture with his 15th first-class century, taking his season’s tally past 600, after Sussex had been under pressure at 111 for 4. Brown first put on 103 with Harry Finch and then added 142 for the sixth wicket with David Wiese to place his side in a commanding position.
Derbyshire had looked dangerous on an unchanting morning marked by a stiff breeze and a light sea fret. Phil Salt, playing well away from his body, fell to a juggling catch in the slips, Tom Haines was caught low down at third slip by Matt Critchley. By lunch, Madsen also had two wicketkeeping catches: Luke Wells glanced Rampaul down the leg side and Michael Burgess edged Antonio Palladino.
On a ground where Hardus Viljoen took 15 wickets for Derbyshire last season, and where Derbyshire have an excellent record (eight wins in 12 in the past 50 years), Brown’s combative qualities were in demand.
He found a willing ally in Finch, who pulled Viljoen for two sixes in an over on his way to 82, before David Wiese, with an unbeaten 89, provided an emphatic conclusion to Sussex’s day.