IF ANYONE at the County Ground has any nails left after this cliff-hanger it will be a surprise. Sussex finally broke their one-day duck, but only just. They appeared to have this Benson and Hedges Cup zonal match in the bag after reaching within three runs of their highest total in this competition, before whipping out half a dozen opposition batsmen.
Defeat in all their previous one-day matches this season meant Sussex would not qualify for the knock-out stages, whatever the outcome yesterday, making it the 11th time in 12 seasons that they have failed to reach the quarter-finals of the Cup. So it was no great surprise to see them play the Good Samaritan and throw runs back at grateful Glamorgan when they should have delivered the coup de grace.
They only ended their generosity in the final over when the Welsh county were within four runs of beating them. By then, the diminutive Tony Cottey had reached a personal best in the competition and was within sight of what would have been his maiden one-day hundred. That was when the wheels came off. Steve Watkin played a ball to mid-on, Cottey, 96 and eager to regain the strike, backed up a yard too far and the alert Jason Lewry ran him out. Next ball, Alex Edwards sent down a slow full-toss, Watkin missed it but the ball did its work and Sussex were home with three balls to spare.
It has taken Sussex 860 runs in their three Cup matches to date to reach this minor landmark, but their continued failure to dismiss, or even contain, opposition batsmen must be a worry to their coach, Peter Moores. At least he can now concentrate on this aspect after announcing his retirement from the game yesterday.
Cottey, at 5ft 4in one of smallest players on the county circuit, was a veritable Colossus as he laid into the labouring Sussex attack. He scored at a run a ball, hitting four sixes and three fours as he matched the acknowledged one-day batting maestro Michael Bevan. The left-handed Australian was also stranded just short of his century, his 95 equalling his Cup best. His was a telling contribution, and on a pitch bursting with runs his 10 overs for 40 runs was what gave him the edge when it came to the Gold Award.
But the match was littered with a welter of significant individual contributions. Sussex's captain, Chris Adams, underlined his magnificent batting form with 81, again at a run a ball; Glamorgan's pinch-hitter, Robert Croft, scored his third successive Cup fifty, as well as a savage 45 from Waqar Younis, who had earlier taken a Cup best 4 for 43. His effort was matched by Sussex's veteran Mark Robinson, who took 4 for 53.