Worcestershire were restricted to three wickets on the opening day of the Specsavers County Championship clash with Sussex at Hove as Luke Wells continued his impressive start to the season with a second successive century.
Skipper Joe Leach employed eight bowlers after putting the home side into a bat via an uncontested toss.
But Leach, Josh Tongue and Ed Barnard had to be content with one wicket apiece as Sussex closed on 339-3 from 96 overs with Wells unbeaten on 139 from 255 balls with 20 fours.
The left-hander followed up his career-best 258 against Durham at Hove a fortnight ago and shared in stands of 125 with Harry Finch (82) and 137 with Stiaan van Zyl (54).
Chris Nash, who has replaced Luke Wright as Sussex captain, made 22 but then went for a pull shot against Leach and picked out Nathan Lyon at square leg with 40 on the board.
Finch and Wells were cautious at first against some tidy bowling before picking up the pace during the afternoon session.
But Tongue broke through when he drew Finch forward and Daryl Mitchell held onto the edge at slip at 165-2 in the 47th over.
Wells was then joined by van Zyl and another partnership flourished. A two off Nathan Lyon took Wells to the 15th first class century of his career.
Worcestershire immediately took the second new ball at278-2 from 80 overs and Barnard broke through when van Zyl was bowled via an inside edge.
Luke Wright got off the mark with a six off Barnard and finished unbeaten on 27. Worcestershire will now be looking for early wickets tomorrow with a ball that is only 16 overs old.
Matt Mason says Daryl Mitchell and Brett D’Oliveira’s “magnificent” opening partnership has given Worcestershire a realistic chance of securing some tangible reward from the Specsavers County Championship clash with Sussex at Hove.
The talented duo gave Worcestershire the best possible reply to Sussex’s 579-8 declared in making 139-0 from 44 overs with Mitchell unbeaten on 85 and D’Oliveira 43.
Now Assistant Coach Mason is looking for the County to continue in the same vein on the third day of what is currently still a decent surface and post a substantial first innings total themselves.
Mason told BBC Hereford-Worcester’s Dave Bradley: “We’ve come off really, really pleased. It sounds funny given the state of the game and 570 odd is a big, big score.
“But to go out there in that session….and what a partnership Brett and Daryl put on there for us.
“It has given us a real glimpse of what we can do if we apply ourselves and maybe take something from this game.
“It looks on the surface as if we are way behind in the game.
“But when you go out there after 150 overs in the field and put in a partnership like that, and see off one of the most hostile spells of opening bowling I’ve seen in some time, then we’ve come off thinking it was a pretty reasonable day in the end for us.”
Both sides opted on the second day to send down a sizeable proportion of short pitched bowling.
Mason said: “Our initial plan was to do it because not much else had worked to be honest.
“We were a little bit surprised they went down that road with the new ball because that is the best time to bowl on this wicket.
“Maybe by doing that, it took a little bit of hardness out of the ball and made batting a little bit easier towards the end of that partnership.
“As long as we get ourselves back in tomorrow morning, particularly Daryl and Brett, we are hopeful of putting up a big first innings score ourselves.”
Mitchell has now put together successive scores of 120, 161, 78 not out and 85 not out in the Championship.
Mason said: “He looks in great nick, probably as good as I’ve seen for a few years, and you can tell that when you are throwing balls at him in the nets in the morning in preparation.
“He is hitting the ball so clean, his feet are moving well, he is in a really good place. Confidence is everything in sport and he has got plenty of that at the moment.
“I thought Brett’s innings was fantastic. It wasn’t his usual flowing innings but it was gritty, it was tough and he was a great foil for Daryl.
“Again I can’t say how good that partnership was. It was brilliant.”
As regards the state of the pitch, Mason said: “I did wonder towards the end of our innings when one or two with the ball at the sea end looked like they stayed down a little bit.
“But at the moment it hasn’t got too many gremlins in it. Hopefully it does hold together.
“For the most part, it has actually been a pretty good surface. “I’m not expecting anything tomorrow but who knows, with another day of sunshine on it, what it might do on day four.”
Steve Rhodes says Worcestershire “will continue to fight” on the final day to save the game and attempt to put pressure on Sussex in the Specsavers County Championship clash at the 1st Central County Ground.
But Director Of Cricket Rhodes admits that opting for the wrong decision with the toss and bowling first on a wicket of increasing up and down bounce has been a crucial element.
Worcestershire will resume tomorrow on 124-4 in their second innings after being asked to follow on. They were bowled out for 312 after an opening stand of 215 between Daryl Mitchell (121) and Brett D’Oliveira (80).
Mitchell hit another 54 in the second innings and Worcestershire will require another 143 to make Sussex bat again.
Rhodes told BBC Hereford-Worcester’s Dave Bradley: “I thought our openers played extremely well – last night and this morning. They manfully toiled out there but also took opportunities to get runs.
“Just before lunch we lost a few wickets and it was increasingly more difficult two fold for the new batters coming in – 1) with the way Sussex bowled and 2) on a pitch that is starting to get increasingly more up and down.
“It really does go back to day one and you think we definitely made the wrong decision regarding the toss.
“There was definitely going to be a bit of sideways movement on the first morning but, as you can see now, with the match unfolding, there is increasingly up and down bounce which is more difficult against the Sussex bowlers.
“But we can’t take anything away from them. I thought Chris Jordan was magnificent. He put in a nine-10 over stint at the end of the day which was a great effort.
“Archer, Philander, Wiese all bowled well, van Zyl got wickets, and they’ve turned up this game. They are good cricketers. There is a real international flavour about Sussex, a lot of ex international players, but in this game so far they have turned up.”
Rhodes added: “I don’t think it is easy starting against that sort of bowling but we are still fighting.
“Coxy (Ben Cox) and Tonguey (Josh Tongue) were fighting tonight and Mitch played a really good innings in the second innings. We will continue to fight tomorrow.
“If we can knock off these runs, then every single run you get past them is worth double so who knows what we can possibly achieve if we do have the same fight, get two big partnerships, then that will put pressure on Sussex.”
Tongue survived the last seven overs after going in at number six as nightwatchman.
Rhodes said: “He did really well. He can bat. He just hasn’t had the best of starts in first class cricket batting-wise but it was a really good experience.”
Steve Rhodes hailed the fighting qualities shown by Worcestershire despite suffering an innings and seven runs reversal against Sussex and said “there is a lot to celebrate even in defeat.”
Worcestershire’s Director Of Cricket again highlighted that it had been a mistake to bowl first as the County’s batsmen had to contend with a pitch of increasingly variable bounce on the final two days.
But he was pleased with the fighting qualities evident in such conditions – from openers Daryl Mitchell and Brett D’Oliveira yesterday and then Ross Whiteley and Ed Barnard today.
The latter duo were struck on either the helmet or body on more than one occasion but refused to buckle for more than 25 overs in a seventh wicket partnership of 79.
Rhodes told BBC Hereford-Worcester’s Dave Bradley: “I thought it was a great effort. We left the lads quite a task to do in this game with our decision regarding the toss.
“To be perfectly honest, once we had made that decision and they got a big score, we were really struggling because that wicket went a hell of a lot up and down against a fiery sort of international class attack.
“They made life difficult so to see some of the fight, the opening batsmen and also also the lads down the order…..you look at the efforts of Barny and Ross today.
“They have got some bruises and been smacked on the head so they’ve really been in a battle so I’m very proud of the way they fought hard.
“Was it dangerous out there today? A fourth day pitch in my opinion should go up and down but there were some balls that were quite dangerous.
But sometimes in cricket on day four, you do get some balls that react quite a lot. I’m not putting any blame on anyone like the groundsman or the pitch inspector. It is part and parcel of the game.”
Worcestershire suffered their first Specsavers County Championship setback of the season after winning the opening four games.
But Rhodes does NOT view it as a case of having to bounce back when they face Glamorgan at New Road on Friday.
He said: “I don’t see it that way. I see it as a great effort. There have been times in the past when we would have just rolled over and we made Sussex, who had the better of the conditions, really fight hard.
“There is a lot to celebrate even in defeat and if we carry on with that sort of effort level when we get decisions right (with the toss) we will probably be on the winning side.”
In terms of the decision with the toss, Rhodes said: “When you make the decision, it is important to balance how much it is going to go up and down with how much it is going to go sideways initially.
“Sussex, I understand, were going to bowl so it’s not just Worcestershire who would have made that decision (to bowl first).
“Sometimes, you’ve got to take that on the chin but if we fight like that and show the same effort levels in tough conditions, then that’s a really good sign for us going forward.”
- 02 Jun 2017
- The 1st Central County Ground, Hove
- Start time:
- Steven Garratt / Neil Mallender
- Worcestershire elected to bowl.
- Home Scorer
- Mike Charman
- Away Scorer
- Phillip Mellish
- 579 / 8 (145.1 overs)
- 312 All Out (96.2 overs)
- 260 All Out (86.1 overs)
- Chris Nash
- Harry Finch
- Luke Wells
- Stiaan van Zyl
- Luke Wright
- Michael Burgess
- Chris Jordan
- David Wiese
- Vernon Philander
- Jofra Archer
- Steve Magoffin
- Daryl Mitchell
- Brett D'Oliveira
- Tom Fell
- Joe Clarke
- Ross Whiteley
- Ben Cox
- Ed Barnard
- Joe Leach
- Josh Tongue
- Jack Shantry
- Nathan Lyon