Bevan's majestic 173 steers Sussex to top

At precisely 11.51am yesterday Michael Bevan became the first batsman to reach 1,000 runs this summer; at 1.58pm the ball left Bevan's bat for the last boundary and rolled over the rope at long on for the 21st time in his stunning, unbeaten innings, and in one bound Sussex had leaped from fifth to top of the Second Division in the County Championship.

At precisely 11.51am yesterday Michael Bevan became the first batsman to reach 1,000 runs this summer; at 1.58pm the ball left Bevan's bat for the last boundary and rolled over the rope at long on for the 21st time in his stunning, unbeaten innings, and in one bound Sussex had leaped from fifth to top of the Second Division in the County Championship.

"I was actually trying to finish things off with a six," admitted Bevan afterwards. If the ball had cleared the boundary it would have taken the New South Wales batsman to his highest score for Sussex, as it was his 173 not out was one short of the mark he set last week.

The statistics tumbled with his majestic display: it was his fourth century in five Championship innings; all of those centuries have been greater than 150; it was the 47th of his career (19 now have been unbeaten); it was his 15th in the Championship (seven for Yorkshire, eight for Sussex) and in all he has passed 50 on 109 occasions in 300 first-class innings. Sadly, Sussex have to manage without this batting colossus for the next three weeks as he returns home tomorrow for Australia's inaugural indoor one-day series against South Africa in Melbourne.

At least he leaves Sussex in fine fettle. "We owe a lot to this one man. He is a class act. That is the best knock I have seen him play," their captain, Chris Adams, said. "The challenge now is for us to carry on in similar fashion while he is away. Our goal this season was to get out of the Second Division." Bevan has ensured they remain on target for that.

However, even the best batsman needs a partner and the nightwatchman James Kirtley did his bit. Having taken nine wickets in the match, he then proved he has what it takes to stick around with the bat. Kirtley followed up his first innings 21 with an unbeaten 26 and in all spent more than four hours at the crease. It underlined what Adams feels about his team. "The commitment and work ethic has beensuperb, we should not have to ask for more, but we have had to and they have responded magnificently."

Middlesex were still in with a shout when play resumed with Sussex still needing a further 150 runs. Home hopes rested on Phil Tufnell's ability, but sadly the bounce and turn of the previous evening was not in evidence and instead Bevan took charge and gave a masterful display.

He only let his hair down when he was certain Middlesex heads were lowered, then came three sixes and a fistful of firmly driven, cut and pulled boundaries.

Middlesex left the Walker Ground after their sixth match here still winless, the record now reading three draws and three defeats and a place at the foot of the table.

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