Drakes feeds off mistakes

Sussex 253 and 226-8 Yorkshire 345 and 133 Sussex won by 2 wickets
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The Independent Online
If Yorkshire do not win the Championship, they will spend some winter evenings thinking what might have been if Richard Blakey had stumped Vasbert Drakes or Michael Vaughan had caught Peter Moores in the gully. They didn't, and the Moores-Drakes partnership put on 104 for the eighth wicket and took Sussex from the brink of defeat to within eight runs of victory.

There were other dropped catches too, and after the game Richard Byas - who might have been guilty of one himself in the slips - was under no illusions about their importance. "They weren't blinders, and if we can't catch those, we don't deserve to win," he said.

With only 90 minutes to play, this match seemed certain to be remembered for the remarkable all-round performance of Peter Hartley, who had scored 89 in the Yorkshire first innings and taken 10 wickets in a game for only the second time in his career. He finished with 10 for 153.

Instead, it was Drakes who will recall this Eastbourne affair with pleasure. Sussex's 26-year-old import from Barbados imposed himself on the English game for the first time. Besides his match-transforming 59 yesterday, he took eight for 135 in the game - "he's still learning," says his captain, Alan Wells.

Mind you, this was a game Sussex expected to win. First thing in the morning, when the groundsman was rolling the wicket, I asked how it would play. "Fine," he said, "the sun's out." On Friday, under heavy cloud cover, the ball had swung wildly and Ed Giddins had bowled Sussex back into the game with six for 47 in Yorkshire's second innings of 133. The groundsman thought Sussex ought to win, but when asked if he would bet on it, he replied: "Not the way they're playing." Before long, a decent crowd would have seen what he meant. Sussex's wickets fell in clusters. First, Darren Gough bowled Jamie Hall and had Wells lbw when the batsman failed to move his feet. That made it 24 for two.

On 47, Hartley bowled Keith Greenfield and Richard Stemp caught Martin Speight one-handed, diving to his left at third slip. When Danny Law joined Bill Athey, who had looked imperturbable while the wickets fell, he looked like a man who was not destined to last long, but he played carelessly and got away with it. They put on 64 before Law fenced at Gough and was caught by Blakey.

The binoculars had been on Gough because his return to the England team is confidently spoken of. On today's showing it would be premature. He bowled short and strayed too often down the leg side. Gough blamed the cloudless sky for the loss of swing, but his figures of three for 59 flattered him.

The real damage was done by Hartley in the first over after lunch when he drew Athey forward and trapped him lbw for 47, after which Ian Salisbury dollied a catch to gully. Sussex were 114 for seven, and it looked over.

But Moores is a wicketkeeper-batsman, and Drakes had scored 180 for Barbados, and the way he batted, it was at last possible to see why. Drakes was lucky too, but he hit powerfully, clouting Hartley back over his head for six, and scoring freely all round the ground.

When Drakes's 50 came up in 49 balls, Sussex could contemplate victory, and, besides dropping catches, Byas assisted them by relying on Hartley and Gough when they were tired. Chris Silverwood caught and bowled Drakes in the first over of his new spell, but it was too late.