Cricket / NatWest trophy: Sussex fail their test of nerve: Gift for Essex

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The Independent Online
Essex 272-5; Sussex 256. Essex win by 16 runs

AS AN exercise in foot-shooting, Sussex's aim here was unerring, seven overs of kamikaze expertise handing Essex a victory much more convincing than the margin implied.

Defending a far from unassailable total, Essex certainly appeared ripe for the plucking. There was, after all, a distinctly callow sheen about an attack in which Darren Cousins, Ronnie Irani and Richard Pearson were all making competition debuts.

The hosts' sense of well-being was further enhanced as David Smith and Bill Athey, authors of the NatWest first- wicket record of 248, tipped and ran 22 in the opening four overs. Then Peter Sutch outwitted Athey and Smith retired with a groin injury.

The first signs of scattiness, significantly, came from the Sussex captain, Alan Wells. Stretching for a reverse sweep off Pearson before his eye was in, he spooned to backward point: some example. In the burly off-spinner's next over, Neil Lenham drove to mid-on where Nasser Hussain slid to intercept and threw out Martin Speight from his knees.

Franklyn Stephenson hit Irani's first two deliveries for four only to be bowled attempting the hat-trick and, when Peter Moores carved Irani to backward point, Sussex had surrendered four wickets in 40 deliveries and with that, all hope.