Cricket: Sussex youth shine through

Gloucestershire 320 Sussex 255-7
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The Independent Online
There cannot be many better ways of watching cricket than sitting in a deckchair on the bank at Hove. Sussex, after their chastening defeat in the NatWest semi-final at Edgbaston, are fun to watch at the moment because they are brimming over with youth, enthusiasm and hope.

At the start of this round of Championship matches, Gloucestershire were lying third, yet for most of the time during the first two days that particular cap would have fitted just as cosily on Sussex's head. No county is more redolent of cricket than Sussex, even though they are one of five, including Gloucestershire, never to have won the Championship. The recent revolution in the club has produced a resurgence of spirit at the County Ground.

Much remains to be done but Sussex have put their trust largely in young players. In this match, Alex Edwards, 22, a strong young man with a good powerful action, bowled well; Toby Pierce, 24 and left-handed, opened the innings extremely well; and Rajesh Rao, 22, had started proceedings with three spanking fours.

There is also a good blend of experience. Neil Taylor played a fine innings putting on 135 for the second wicket with Pierce and there are not many better drivers off the back foot in county cricket. But when he had been caught and bowled driving, many of the old fallibilities reappeared. Five wickets fell for 38 and Sussex struggled for a second batting point on a long, hot evening.

It was an inspired move to bring Mark Robinson from Hull, where he had spent last year playing club cricket after not being re-engaged by Yorkshire in 1995. He took 5 for 66 in the first innings at just above medium pace, including two outstanding wickets on this second day.

Gloucestershire, too, have their supply of youngsters in Tim Hancock, Jonathan Lewis, Nick Trainor and Matthew Windows, all of whom should have key roles to play over the next decade.

These have been an encouraging two days for the future of county cricket for both sides have a quiverful of promising young cricketers who will play a considerable part in whatever format Lord MacLaurin and the counties eventually come up with. One issue which appears not to have been discussed in all the rearrangements that are being thrashed out at the moment is that of going back to uncovered pitches.

Without a doubt, that would be the easiest and quickest way to improve the overall standard of England's cricket. One suspects that the marketing men will have struck this off the agenda - if it was ever on it in the first place - at a very early stage. Their constant fear is the frustration produced by a cloudless sky and a big crowd after heavy overnight rain has saturated a pitch which refuses to dry.

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