Sussex broke through belated Surrey resistance to seal a 10-wicket victory in the dying overs at Horsham. Though the result looked close in the end, with the Rory Hamilton-Brown finding support from the Surrey tail to take the game to the final half hour, the difference through the match was actually much larger.
Surrey had been behind since surrendering their first innings on the opening day. Nonetheless, coming into the day on a benign surface with nine wickets in hand they stood a chance of seeing out a draw. Instead they slumped to 198 for 8 and at that stage looked like subsiding ingloriously. Yet Hamilton-Brown scrapped through 21 overs with John Lewis and Jade Dernbach to set nerves jangling among the home supporters.
With the overs ticking by tension, absent through the whole day, built alarmingly but Anyon burst through Hamilton-Brown’s defences to uproot off stump. A 160-ball 47 was a testimony to defiance from the Surrey captain, but he may wonder if greater intent might just have proved a better route to safety. Sussex needed 22 from the final six overs of the day, and the festival crowd, suitably lathered up after a day in the sun, cheered them all the way home.
For a batting team normally the reckless side of positive, Surrey were strangely subdued throughout. Hamilton-Brown’s bravado, that might have inspired a maverick counter-attack, was instead exchanged for a melancholic grit. Early on especially, he pushed and prodded and allowed Panesar to settle into a fine spell. A different approach may have delivered a different result.
It was Panesar’s best match of the summer. He looked sprightly last evening, after his giddy fun with the bat, and settled into a rhythm straight-away today. He would have wanted more than three wickets and but applied the tourniquet, with 21 maidens from 32 overs, from which Sussex built their breakthroughs.
Until the finale, Surrey never quite got to grips with the day. Mark Ramprakash began grimly, playing and missing his way to 9 from 70 balls, but having found some fluency – adding a further 28 in a hurry – he was pinned in front missing a sweep off Panesar. It was, though, Ramprakash’s highest score of the season and after using five different opening combinations in their previous eight games, Surrey will hope this one can remain for a while more.
Zander de Bruyn survived two chances but could not cash in, instead becoming the second player to be trapped lbw sweeping Panesar. Tom Maynard missed the previous day’s fielding after being involved in a car accident. He looked forlorn today, suffering his way through 35 balls for 5. He and Hamilton-Brown, who normally form one of the most exciting batting pairs in the Championship, could only muster 16 between them in the best part of 13 overs. Eventually Chris Nash ended Maynard’s misery. Nash has been a golden partnership breaker for Sussex and his entrance into the attack was greeted by an increasingly cheerful home crowd. By his sixth delivery, Nash proved the locals’ faith correct by trapping Maynard in front.
Farce followed when Hamilton-Brown was too late sending Gareth Batty back for a single towards mid-on, leaving Batty well short. Murali Kartik made it to tea before missing a gloriously rose-tinted swish and losing his off stump to the deserving Anyon. The victory chants were warming up in the crowd by then, but Sussex ran into tougher defence. After a 13 over stand, it took Nash, again, to remove Lewis, caught behind before, another tantalising wait later, Anyon finished the innings.
Defeat left Surrey still chasing a second win having lost three and drawn three since beating Sussex in the opening match of the season. That wait will now go for much longer since the Twenty20 season has arrived but Surrey may well welcome it. The second half of the Championship summer is when they found their form last year and drier pitches may suit their batting line-up more.
Sussex needed respite after successive defeats. As coach Mark Robinson admitted, they are remain a slightly callow team. “I think sometimes they lack a bit of self confidence but there is room in this team to grow. I think there is a lot more to come from us.” Victory will provide some of that assurance. When the second half of the season arrives, the scrap to avoid relegation will be compelling. Thanks to their win here, though, Sussex have probably avoided the pit.