Sussex 172 Lancashire 157: Adams sets sights on triple treat for Sussex

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The Independent Online

The talk since Sussex lifted the Cheltenham & Gloucester Trophy after beating Lancashire at Lord's on Saturday has been of a possible Championship double. But the Sussex captain, Chris Adams, has his sights set on even higher things.

Sussex take on Durham today in a Pro-40 match at Riverside, followed 24 hours later by another in the same competition at Northampton. And Adams believes that victory in those two games could set up his men for an unprecedented treble of Pro-40, Championship and C&G.

"They are big games," said Adams, who led the county to their first Championship triumph in 2003, "because that is another trophy that we are in with a genuine chance of figuring in. If we get back-to-back wins Monday-Tuesday then that would go a long way towards winning that league." This was the fifth occasion Sussex had lifted the C&G Trophy in their history, but the first under its name; the last time had been 20 years ago and that, too, was against Lancashire.

On that occasion, though, the margin was a far more emphatic seven wickets. But then as now there was a key performance with the ball, Dermot Reeve claiming 4 for 20.

James Kirtley bettered that on Saturday with a career-best limited-overs return of 5 for 27. It was a performance which may well earn him a recall to the Championship team.

Adams said: "That was comfortably James' best bowling performance of the season. OK, conditions were great, but he got it right on the day. It means it will be a nice selection meeting on Wednesday when we pick the side to take on Hampshire." And Adams dropped a clear hint that Kirtley could well force his way into the side at the expense of an all-rounder.

"It is a case of getting the balance of the Championship side right, with Jason Lewry bowling brilliantly, Yasir Arafat more than just standing-in for Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, and up to now it has been our decision to go with the two preferred all-rounders [Robin Martin-Jenkins and Luke Wright] as opposed to a third out-and-out seamer."

Back at Lord's Adams did admit that things got off to a bad start. "I did not get a sinking feeling on losing the toss," he explained, "but I did have the thought that that was a big toss that had gone begging.

"No one, other than the 11 blokes in the Sussex dressing-room, really believed that our total of 172 was enough, but we had been out there and batted, and they bowled very, very well, and we knew that as long as it stayed overcast then there was a chance we could win the game, because they were really difficult conditions to bat in."

Kirtley certainly made the most of the conditions, whipping out three of the dangerous top four in the Lancashire batting order - Mal Loye, Nathan Astle and the menacing Stuart Law. Those three wickets alone could well rekindle England interest in him, if only in limited-overs cricket.

But Kirtley is a realist. "I still believe I can do a job on one-day international cricket," the seamer said. "I've learned new skills, bowling better with reverse swing, developing an out-of-the-back-of-the-hand slower ball, these are skills I have developed in the last two or three years since I last played for England.

"I am never going to give up the hope, it would be great to do it again, but I don't think I was even in the selectors' minds when they put together the 30-man ICC Trophy squad."

The main thing for the Sussex seamer is that he should be able to put a hard year behind him. It began with him battling for a second time to try to remodel his action in order to save his career.

"This has been the toughest year that I have had," Kirtley said. "I think it is having to deal with the highs and lows that has been difficult. If it is crap all the time it probably would not be as bad, if you know what I mean.

"The year has gone from the massive high of my action being cleared, through the disappointment of not making the championship side, to the massive high again of getting to the C&G final."

With luck and more hard work Kirtley's and his team-mates' season should contain more highs and maybe even a bit of Sussex history.