FROM the depths of 56 for 5, Sussex had reason to thank a doubty pair of comparatively inexperienced tail-enders for gritting their way out of embarrassment yesterday, after Kent had chosen to bowl. The wicketkeeper Shaun Humphries led the resistance in partnership with the pace bowler James Kirtley.
The day was blustery enough to keep the threatening clouds away, the wicket was as well behaved as one would expect here, but the cricket was soporific. Humphries and Kirtley were not to blame; they had been left with a huge repair job after their top order had crumbled.
When Toby Peirce and Wasim Khan made a steady start against a Kent attack without Dean Headley, who is in the Test squad, and the rested Martin McCague, there was no sign that batting was about to become such a difficult occupation. Indeed, the seam bowler Ben Phillips - later to return with a vengeance - gave way to Matthew Fleming for the eighth over of the match, hardly a sign the bowlers were in command.
They soon were, however. Khan snicked the bustling Fleming, and Peirce misjudged a low legside bouncer. Chris Adams looked to take charge before a confident hook found Alan Igglesden on the boundary, while Michael Bevan thick-edged to one of two gullies.
Sussex's predicament deepened when Jamie Carpenter missed a Carl Hooper flipper, Alex Edwards was snared by Igglesden and Keith Newell fell to an acrobatic Steve Marsh catch. Towards the end of the second session, however, Humphries and Kirtley had proved such a nuisance that Fleming was bowling to four slips, a forward short leg and a leg slip, and in the evening their impertinence meant that the very occasional medium pace of Matthew Walker was tried by a now impatient Kent, bereft of better ideas.
Kirtley was dropped at slip when on four, and Humphries survived a couple of tough chances, but their stand shone out on a dour day, rewarding both with hard-earned career-best scores. Eventually, Kirtley snicked once too often, and Humphries was the undeserving victim of a horrid mix-up with Jason Lewry, but in the context of the day their 62-over stand had been an epic. Their downfall left Kent a token over to survive, Lewry bowling to three slips and two gullies before the close.