Australians 277 for 9 (Stoinis 110, Finch 78, Archer 3-62) beat Sussex 220 (Salt 62, Evans 57, Agar 3-64) by 57 runs
There was the occasional mention of recent controversies from a sell-out crowd of 6000 as Hove – “If you like sandpaper clap your hands,” was the tune of choice for some – but the toughest welcome for Australia as they returned to the field for the first time since leaving South Africa disgraced came in the middle as Sussex threatened to turn them over.
In the end, Australia’s attack came through – with help from some poor shot selection by Sussex – to secure a 57-run victory, a margin that flattered them somewhat. Marcus Stoinis‘ hundred, batting at No. 3, was the highlight for the Australians but their innings faltered badly from 167 for 1 after 30 overs while their pace attack looked thin as the lack of caps would suggest.
“It’s good to start a tour like that [with a hundred], but more importantly it’s just fun to be out there with our mates,” Stoinis said. “It was a tough wicket to bat on through the middle, as we saw with Sussex, but I think you just need to absorb a bit of pressure and accept it’s a bit difficult. It’s been a bit of a pattern of something so something we’ll probably try and fix. Not feel the pressure of a few dot balls, just bat your way through it.”
Their catching was off the mark as well. Phil Salt, dropped twice by D’arcy Short at square leg before he had scored, plundered 62 off 49 balls but when he was yorked by Kane Richardson the middle order couldn’t retain their composure. Ben Brown was later dropped at long leg by Andrew Tye but that did not prove costly.
“These things happen,” Stoinis said of the drops. “First game back and all that, no stress, and it might have worked as a bit of a blessing in disguise as it made the bowlers work a little harder for the win and put them under pressure. So you take the good with the bad.”
Ashton Agar recovered from an expensive start when he bowled inside the first 10 overs – Salt took him for consecutive sixes to his fifty – to claim three wickets, his third a nice piece of bowling to spin one past Laurie Evans’ edge for a stumping when his half-century was keeping Sussex’s hopes alive.
For many reasons, this is a very different Australia side than the one involved in South Africa – bans, injuries and a change of format leaving to a revolving door of personnel. There are just three survivors from that Test series in the squad (Tim Paine, Nathan Lyon and Shaun Marsh) and only Paine was in the XI for the opening match of this tour.
One thing that hasn’t changed is that Australia’s 50-over cricket needs a lot of work. That was evident when they were beaten 4-1 by England earlier this year and post-Ashes weariness notwithstanding that was a with a team that included the big guns.
Having been put into bat, Australia raced out of the blocks before Short, who is in line for an ODI debut next week, was trapped lbw on the back foot by Danny Briggs. Stoinis and Aaron Finch took them to 167 for 1, but the final 20 brought just 110 runs as Sussex’s spinners – Briggs and Luke Wells – bowled their 20 overs for 86 runs.
Finch, as he often does, cantered along at more than a run-a-ball early in his innings and was 45 off 33 balls before slowing up considerably. His fifty came off 54 balls and the last 33 runs of his stay took 64 deliveries before he edged a pull at Jofra Archer. Archer’s opening five-over spell was inconsistent and cost 34 runs, but he came back well to finish with 3 for 62 plus effected a sharp run out of his own bowling to remove Agar.
Stoinis’ innings was a big tick for Australia. He was promoted to No. 3 for the final ODI against England in Perth and scored 87 before Tom Curran secured victory and here made 110 off 112 balls, hitting strongly down the ground with all four of his sixes coming the ‘V’ from long-off to long on. As part of Australia’s rebuilding of the one-day side, it appears Stoinis is set for a run at the No. 3 position that was Smith’s before a reshuffle during that previous series against England
The rest of the batting was less impressive. Glenn Maxwell drove to mid-off, Travis Head was lbw and Tim Paine prodded a return catch and for a moment it appeared they may be bowled out. They will hope for better against Middlesex at Lord’s on Saturday.