And so to Hove County Cricket Ground for the opening match in Sussex’s bid for T20 glory.

Gates opened at 17:30, and I was in the ground by 17:40. I chose a nice spot in the second row in the General Admittance area, at the Cromwell Road end. I did choose to sit in the Pavilion area once last season, and it wasn’t all that… I had purchased a chicken pasta dish and an Orange Fanta from the Tesco at the station, so I tucked into that as I caught up on last Saturday’s Times. Get me; reading the Times and watching cricket – am I old before my time? Anyway, it was a lovely sunny day and so I applied the suntan lotion liberally several times. It seems to have worked, I’m not sunburnt today. The ground filled up around me as I caught up with what used to be current affairs, and then it was time for the match.

Surrey won the toss and decided to bat first, led by Graeme Smith. I was struck (and continued to be struck throughout the match) by how tall he was. I know Sussex are a short side, with Yardy, Wright and now Zaidi, but Smith towered over his own players as well. Very tall. Apart from that, Smith didn’t trouble us much; he was out for seven in the fifth over. The rest of the Surrey players were a bit of an unknown to me; Smith’s opening partner was Roy, who stealthily accrued runs and got a half-century while no-one was watching. Davies, who I did recognise, was out quickly, and Roy was then partnered by Wilson, who again accumulated the runs without anyone noticing. He also scored a half century. O’Brien, who troubled England a while ago didn’t trouble the scoreboard at all; he was in and out quicker than the Hokey Cokey.

Towards the end of the Surrey innings it seemed that they were just getting more runs than they should have done. Sussex had done well to limit Surrey’s scoring ambitions, but they had seemed to let Surrey away with it in the last overs. When Azhar Mahmood came in to bat, he managed a bright n’ jaunty 23 off 12, and all of a sudden Surrey had managed to get 171 for 7. It was probably 20 or so more than I expected them to get, but that did include a six run penalty because Sussex were bowling their overs slowly. We were all watching the clock tick down, but Sussex showed no signs of hurrying. And then, when the clock ran out they got pinged. It was a silly piece of organisation; we were all concerned in the crowd but it didn’t seem to bother Joyce.

After a shortened interval, Wright and Machan came out to open the batting for Sussex, and to start the run chase. It was getting colder now, so out came the fleece on top of the jumper I was already wearing. Machan and Wright had to keep up a run rate of nine an over, and they were managing to keep at about eight. I say ‘they’, Machan was out for one, Joyce was out for seven – just like the illustrious Smith, and Yardy was out for five. Hamilton-Brown came in and tried to keep Wright company for a bit, and I thought they were having a boundary competition between themselves, and unfortunately Wright then got himself out – but not before getting 56 off 31, and losing a ball over the hospitality area (south-east corner).

It always felt that Sussex were on the back foot, and after Wright went that didn’t change – in fact, it became more apparent. RHB tried his best but was only able to hold steady, and not push Sussex ahead. Nash caused himself an injury and Joyce had to come on as a runner. Things never end well when runners are involved, but actually he did okay. 21 off 20 wasn’t good enough, but it kept Sussex in the game.

In the final overs, Sussex needed 30 off 12. In the 19th over Jordan hit the only boundary, and then Nash was out. Brown came in, Jordan was out, Brown hit a six to put Arafat on strike and eight required off the last two deliveries. Given their performance to that point, I wasn’t holding my breath. But they had stayed in the game, and it had been a brilliant start to the season. Dernbach ran up and bowled, and Arafat hit it to the boundary. So from the final delivery he needed to do the same again. Dernbach delivered the final ball and Arafat nudged it behind to the boundary for four runs. It was a great match, Sussex managed to come from behind and take the match away from Surrey right at the last second – you might optimistically call it good timing, but I think Sussex only just managed to stumble over the line in time. It was thrilling to watch, and Sussex managed to achieve the impossible, which you only see rarely in sporting fixtures. They didn’t give up but kept on playing, hoping that things would turn their way – until they did.

Unfortunately I am going to miss next Friday’s fixture against Hampshire, which is a shame, but I’m looking forward to the next chance I get to see Sussex play.

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