Sussex 221 (Haines 86, Patterson 4-26) and 136 for 6 (Bess 5-33) need another 99 runs to beat Yorkshire 150 and 305 (Ballance 74, Lyth 66, Carson 5-85)
Yorkshire’s trip to the south coast proved a restorative experience for England offspinner Dom Bess, as a five-wicket haul on the third afternoon helped push the visitors towards a hard-fought victory. There remained work to do on the final morning, after a day of blustering winds and shifting fortunes, but Bess’ dismissal of George Garton with his final delivery left the Sussex chase precariously placed.
Having steadily dragged their way back into this contest, turning an overnight lead of 92 into a fourth-innings target of 235, Yorkshire seemed set to complete the turnaround by reducing the home side to 86 for 5 during the evening session. Ben Brown, Sussex’s doughty captain, bolted together a stand with Garton as the shadows lengthened, only for Bess to cap his day by securing a maiden five-for in Yorkshire whites.
On a dry Hove surface, and following success for Sussex’s young offspinner, Jack Carson, Bess quickly became the focus of attention – much as he was for large portions of England’s winter assignments in Sri Lanka and India. He has not had an easy start to the season, going wicketless in Yorshire’s opening two fixtures, and suffered a rib problem while fielding in the first innings of this match, though he was able to bowl through the discomfort.
The ease with which David Willey and Duanne Olivier added 51 in 13.2 overs during a last-wicket stand for Yorkshire either side of lunch hinted at some of the life going out of the pitch. But there has been turn throughout, and Bess was soon into the attack after the openers got off to a solid start – much as in each of the three preceding innings of this match – with Tom Haines setting the tempo for Sussex during a 45-run stand.
Having started his spell with a maiden to Aaron Thomason, Bess’ seventh delivery was replete with intent: drift into Haines from round the wicket, spin and bounce past the outside edge. Carson had found plenty of grip bowling from the Sea End, and with five left-handers in the Sussex top seven, the sense only increased that this was a golden opportunity for Bess.
The breakthrough came in the same over, as Thomason’s attempt to get down the track ended with him being bowled through the gate after a desperate hoy across the line. A second for Bess followed soon after the tea interval, as Tom Clark was lured forward only for some extra bounce to see the ball pop off the splice to silly point. In between times, the lively Haines was caught down the leg side off Jordan Thompson.
With Joe Root joining the attack from the Cromwell Road End, Hove suddenly became reminiscent of England’s most-recent Test outing in Ahmedabad – albeit you would struggle to squeeze in a 130,000-seater “Modium” between the flats and terraces that flank this ground. Root might have removed Stiaan van Zyl on 21, as a thin edge evaded Adam Lyth at slip, but the Sussex No. 3 became a third victim for Bess in the following over, leaving one that went on with the arm to clip off stump.
Bess was now in a groove, and Delray Rawlins was dispatched first ball, a thin edge deflecting off Jonny Tattersall behind the stumps to be taken at slip. Garton saw off the hat-trick delivery, but Bess had 4 for 12 from 13 overs and Yorkshire seemed set to roll through, only for Brown, who edged Root through the hands of Lyth on 11, to battle through to the close and keep his side in contention.
Not that Yorkshire will be getting roundly clapped back to the broad acres, should they manage to make it back-to-back wins on the road. “All French people have two jobs, their own and film critic,” said the director Francois Truffaut. Substitute in the words “Yorkshire” and “cricket”, and you might have a fair reflection of how seriously things are taken in the White Rose county. There had been mithering aplenty after Yorkshire were second best to Glamorgan in their opening game of the season, and they have had to come from behind here.
A factor in the final analysis might well be the relative experience of these teams. While Yorkshire could draw on the skill and knowhow of six full internationals in their XI, the Sussex side has just two men aged over 30 – van Zyl and Brown – and as many as seven who are 23 or younger. Sussex have had their chances in this game, but too many have slipped by.
Another example came on the third morning. Yorkshire were 254 for 9 and the target still fewer than 200, but Willey and Olivier set themselves against the prevailing wind to produce the second-highest partnership of the innings. The change in momentum was in keeping with a game that has kept all concerned guessing, shifting like the contours of the dunes at the beach.
Gary Ballance’s first half-century in any form of the game since August 2019 provided a vital bulwark for Yorkshire, the No. 3 adding stands of 37 with nightwatchman Patterson and 32 with Bess. He fell when padding up ill-advisedly to Carson, bowling from around the wicket, before Ollie Robinson struck twice in as many overs to leave Sussex on the brink of batting again – Thompson smartly held one-handed by Thomason at slip, Bess given out lbw to a nip-backer.
Carson had impressed with his control and character in helping to check Yorkshire’s progress on the second evening, laughing at the idea that life for a spinner during an English spring is tough. “It’s nothing to playing in Northern Ireland, as a 13-year-old in short sleeves – it’s absolutely Baltic,” was his swift rejoinder. Although the last-wicket pair kept Sussex waiting beyond a delayed lunch, it was Carson who finished the job, spinning one into Olivier’s pads to secure career-best figures and a second five-for in only his seventh first-class match.
Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick