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Sussex 318-5 v Surrey: Hopkinson misery at missing maiden ton

The contrast could not have been greater. On one hand, Murray Goodwin, a Zimbabwe veteran aged 35, in the 221st game of his first class career, on the other, the relative rookie Carl Hopkinson, nine years younger playing in only his 42nd game.

Each found himself within touching distance of a hundred. On both occasions the unthinkable happened. Hopkinson, 26, was first up in late afternoon. It must have looked like a gift from the cricketing gods. There he was just three runs away from registering his maiden first class hundred.

Surrey's Usman Afzaal, boasting a career average of 52 runs for each of the 79 first class wickets he had taken, and who last season sent down just three overs of his left-arm spin which earned him one wicket, tossed the ball up, Hopkinson took the bait, stepped down the track and smashed it on the full, low and hard, straight back to the bowler.

The batsman's misery was palpable. He dragged himself off, oblivious to the sympathetic applause and appreciation of his carefully crafted career best 97, the 69th innings of his career, that had taken him the best part of five hours.

An hour or so later it was Goodwin's turn. Having shared in that third wicket stand of 129 with Hopkinson he took charge and moved inexorably towards three figures. With 53 first-class hundreds to his name, his second of the season had looked a formality, all the way to 98 in some three and three-quarter hours.

There were just three overs left in the day when Australian Matt Nicholson got the batsman to follow one and Goodwin edged it to Surrey's wicketkeeper Jon Batty. Yet the day belonged to Sussex, despite losing the toss and being put in. That was just as well since they learnt this week they will have to do without their wizard leg spinner Mushtaq Ahmed for three weeks following knee surgery to repair a torn cartilage. The other Championship match the Pakistani will miss is against Somerset in a fortnight.