Cricket: Sussex striving for points

Sussex 375 Hampshire 28-2
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IT WAS a salutary thought that this may have been a taste of things to come. Both Hampshire and Sussex are striving for a top-nine finish and a place in next year's First Division of the Championship and Sussex, understandably, batted on and on with care-worn concern for the last two batting bonus points, which they eventually achieved.

Before this match, Hampshire were in fifth place with 149 points and Sussex in 13th with 133. With so many counties grouped so closely together, every bonus point is invaluable.

Michael Di Venuto gave us a lovely morning when he hit the ball as often and as crisply as Chris Adams had done the night before. Tony Cottey then contributed a typical, terrier-like half-century and Justin Bates his first first-class fifty.

It grew less exciting as the day wore on. With only 40 points separating second from 17th place in the Championship table, competition over the last four weeks of the season for what amounts to promotion and relegation is going to be fierce. That is as it should be but when a match is conducted as it had to be here yesterday it was a less than exhilarating spectacle.

On a flat pitch, Shaun Udal turned his off-breaks slowly from the Northlands Road End while the seamers operated from the other. When Cottey was caught at short leg, off bat and pad, pushing forward to Udal, Sussex were 245 for 5 in the 62nd over, with only one batting point so far secured.

The second, at 250, was a formality, the third, at 300, was likely, the fourth, at 350, a possibility. In only his third game of the year Bates found that the innings revolved round his batting. He has a nice upright, easy style at the crease and Sussex were glad to have him.

Umer Rashid and James Kirtley made slow, but useful contributions, helped by Udal's poor control. Hampshire's Dane, Tom Hansen, who bowls medium fast left-arm over the wicket, sent back Rashid and Nick Wilton - his first two first-class wickets - and, when Kirtley was lbw to Udal's quicker ball, Sussex were 296 for 8.

Jason Lewry helped Bates to take their side to 300 in the 84th over and then they set about securing the fourth and final batting point. It was not exciting cricket but there could be no blame on the batsmen, who were reacting properly to the situation. The 350 finally arrived in the 97th over and the fourth point with it and, when Kirtley took two Hampshire wickets in the evening, Sussex will have felt well-pleased with their day.

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