Cricket: Sussex all smiles

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The Independent Online
Sussex 18-0 v Northamptonshire

THE odds against Northamptonshire and Sussex making much progress were always fairly remote on another grey day at the County Ground. At eight o'clock on Friday evening, with the first day washed out, an inch of water covered the entire playing area.

Nevertheless, the match would have started on time yesterday but for a shower as the captains went out to toss. More rain was never far away and, in the event, seven and a half overs represented the whole day's ration.

The forecast for tomorrow is better and the sides could yet conjure something interesting from what remains, especially since they both find themselves in the upper reaches of the Championship table.

Sussex, placed fifth after the latest completed round, are not used to such prosperity - the wooden spoon has landed in their laps twice in the last four seasons.

But coach Norman Gifford drew encouragement from last summer's 11th place and Sussex's progress this season appears to underline his belief in their potential. A victory here would be their fourth, equalling their tally for all of last season.

Modest achievement, perhaps, but enough to broaden the smiles currently in evidence at Hove. Recession-defying efforts off the field have brought in useful profits for the club and a youth development system is in place. Money in the bank enabled Sussex to pull off a coup in the winter when they signed Franklyn Stephenson, the West Indian all-rounder.

In May, Stephenson rewarded Sussex with his highest championship score, 133 against Somerset, and his contribution to last week's 80-run victory at Worcester was decisive: 116 runs for once out and 11 wickets for 107, including seven for 29. Something similar tomorrow would do his growing popularity at Hove no harm.

Each side has omitted a specialist spinner from this match, Northamptonshire leaving out Andy Roberts and Sussex Brad Donelan. Both Sussex openers were quickly off the mark after Northamptonshire had won the toss and decided to field, David Smith slipping Curtly Ambrose for three behind square and Jamie Hall driving Paul Taylor's loosener to the midwicket boundary before the weather denied them the chance to establish themselves.