Sussex 355-8 v Kent: Yardy helps Sussex to make their point

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The Independent Online

So far, the numbers are adding up nicely for Sussex in their attempt to wrest back the Championship from Nottinghamshire. They have won six of their eight matches so far and have more points than they did at the corresponding point in the title-winning season of 2003.

The only fly in the ointment is Lancashire, who sit out this round but for the moment are six points better off from one win fewer. Batting has been Sussex's problem.

Only once, against Yorkshire at Arundel in their past Championship action, have they achieved maximum bonus points in that department. Their average has been a modest 2.25 per game.

For a long time yesterday, they seemed to be struggling to creep above that, heading towards a decent position but less well placed than perhaps they should have been after Chris Adams had won his ninth toss. Losing Richard Montgomerie to the first ball of the day did not augur well, but the failures that followed - with the obvious exception of Murray Goodwin and Michael Yardy - could not be explained by that. Then again, the average first innings score at Hove this season, despite the slope and the tendency towards dry, fast outfields, is 280, on which basis, as the lower order batsmen supportively helped add three more points, they may have done rather well.

Certainly, they would have been much worse off had Yardy not stuck around doggedly from the second ball of the day to the last. After the frenzy of Twenty20 cricket it can be difficult for batsmen to adjust to the different demands of the four-day game.

Yardy had no such trouble. Last week, the left-hander struck 68 off 43 balls at the Oval. Yesterday, he reached 100 off 250 deliveries, 126 off 298 by the close, with 13 fours. At times, when the day was at its most steamily soporific, Yardy's essay in concentration was no aid to staying awake.

But that was not the point. Where Carl Hopkinson, Adams, Matt Prior and Luke Wright were cheap casualties, Yardy offered nothing, although Kent were convinced they had him caught behind before he had scored.

It was while Yardy and Goodwin were together in their contrasting styles that Sussex were in the best shape, the pair putting on 141 for the second wicket. Goodwin, whose first 52 came off 65 balls, saw a century looming when he lofted Min Patel for six but perished two balls later, 18 short, when he advanced down the wicket to the left-arm spinner only to miss, wicketkeeper Niall O'Brien sharp enough to make the stumping.

Kent probably hoped for a little more from their two new overseas players, the South African Tyron Henderson and West Indies all-rounder Dwayne Bravo, whose 36 debut overs combined yielded only one wicket each.

Their best hope may lie in the absence with a stiff neck of Mushtaq Ahmed, without whom Sussex may find taking 20 wickets significantly less easy.