Sussex reignite promotion bid by beating determined Middlesex at Hove

A Sussex wicket falls to Middlesex at Hove - but it was Sussex's game and they won by seven wickets / Picture: Getty Images
A Sussex wicket falls to Middlesex at Hove - but it was Sussex's game and they won by seven wickets / Picture: Getty Images

Sussex survived a determined recovery by Middlesex to beat them by seven wickets inside three days at Hove.

It was their first victory in the Specsavers County Championship Division Two since they beat the same opposition at Lord’s at the start of June.

Middlesex had conceded a first innings advantage of 234 but some rearguard batting in their second innings, and particularly a last wicket stand of 79 in 16 overs between Steve Finn and Tim Murtagh, saw them reach a total of 378, setting a brittle Sussex batting line-up 145 to win.

That target looked even trickier when Phil Salt, driving loosely, was bowled between bat and pad by Tim Murtagh for 10, Tom Haines received a bail-trimmer from Steve Finn which angled into him before straightening and the out of form Harry Finch was out for a pair – his second in as many matches - when he edged a sharp ball from Murtagh into the slips.

That left Sussex struggling at 44 for three. But an unbroken century partnership between Alex Carey (69) and Luke Wells (48) saw Sussex home. The contest ended when spinner Nathan Sowter came on at 88 for three and Carey hit his first three deliveries for legside sixes, followed by another later in the over.

But the Sussex hero was still Ollie Robinson, who followed his 8-34 first innings return with another six wickets to give him a match haul of 14 for 135, the best by a Sussex bowler since Ian Thomson took 15 at Worthing in 1964.

Middlesex had started the day on 149 for four, still 85 runs behind. Sam Robson had added just seven runs to his score when he played forward to Robinson and edged the ball to Finch at second slip. But it would be the only Middlesex wicket to fall in the morning session.

The clean-striking Simpson went on to complete his fifty off 71 deliveries, with eight fours. At 247 for five, a lead of 13 runs and with four over remaining before lunch, Sussex took the new ball. Their rewards, though, would come after the interval.

Simpson had added just two runs to his lunch score when he shouldered arms to Robinson and had his off-stump knocked back for 89. Then Middlesex lost two more in two overs. Toby Roland-Jones was smartly stumped by Ben Brown off the bowling of Haines when he lifted his back foot. And it was 278 for eight when Nathan Sowter was caught behind off Robinson’s bowling.

Middlesex lost their ninth wicket at 299 when James Harris fell to the same Brown-Robinson combination for 66. It all might have been a bit more straightforward for Sussex if Harris had not been dropped on six, a dolly to Haines in the gully.

That miss felt even more painful for Sussex as the last wicket pair of Finn and Murtagh defied the bowlers. Finn’s innings of 56 from 65 balls, with six fours and two sixes, equalled his career best, the other being a five-hour vigil for England against New Zealand in Dunedin in 2012-13.

Ben Brown, Sussex captain, said: “It was a terrific win. We were underdogs in the game. If you look at that Middlesex seam attack they are all international cricketers. To turn them over was a fantastic result.

“We should talk about Ollie Robinson. It was an incredible performance. To carry the bowling attack like that was outstanding. He’s an unbelievable bowling machine at the moment. It’s never too many overs for him. He just keeps coming and coming. He’s delighted he won his cap this week. He deserves it. He’s growing as a professional and that’s really showing on the pitch. If there is a better bowler in the country at the moment I’m not sure where he is.

“We’ve got some players missing, like Delray Rawlins, Chris Jordan, Stiaan van Zyl. To come up against Middlesex was not ideal timing. But it gave opportunities for other players to come in.”