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Super job by the boys to get over the line

Gold reserve: Fynn Hudson-Prentice, a concussion replacement, celebrates one of his four wickets in the Durham second innings, which prompted a stunning turnaround by Sussex to launch the LV= Insurance County Championship season (Photograph courtesy of Sussex County Cricket Club)

Wow. What a spectacular way for the boys to start the new County Championship season. Beating Durham by two wickets the way we did after being on the back foot for much of the first two days sets us up quite nicely under a new four-day captain in Cheteshwar Pujara and coaching team led by Paul Farbrace.

There was a lot of character shown on day one to come back the way we did after they flew out of the traps scoring at five an over for most of a first-innings 376 — an approach no doubt inspired by the Bazball that Durham hero Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum have brought to the England Test set-up.

We did well to get our first-innings score close to theirs, with Pujara scoring another masterful century [115 from 163 balls with 13 fours and a six]. I was saying to the boys that he must think that this is batting paradise in England; he just can’t stop scoring runs here. But, obviously, having someone of that calibre in your top four is a real boost, and he shows it every innings and in every game why he’s that good.

The way we fought in the second innings to bowl them out for 189, having put them under pressure early, and then how we batted, I think we definitely deserved the victory. It was a bit nervy at the end of day three when we lost three quick wickets, including the big one of Pujara for 35. But, despite another flurry of wickets when needing 59 on the final day with five in hand, Oli Carter brought us home with an unbeaten 33 from 83 balls that was more valuable than the score suggests.

There was a lot of skill shown and a lot of fight. Even though I was not involved, I was there for the majority of it. It was a nice feeling for the club, the fans and for everyone involved after some of the struggles we have had trying to get championship wins on the board.

And let’s not forget that we had luckless George Garton, who missed most of 2022 with long Covid, suffer another setback when he was ruled out for the rest of the match through concussion protocol on the second evening, having earlier top-edged a ball on to his grill when batting. Thankfully, his replacement, Fynn Hudson-Prentice, who had already been tabbed to be in the second XI with me against Kent starting Tuesday, stepped up the plate by taking four crucial wickets to turn the match.

That’s a prime example of always being ready to play; you never know what’s going to happen. Fynn found out the night before that he was in the next day, so it was a bit easier to prepare. But all the boys are preparing well and look in some pretty good form, so for him to come in and do that is just a credit to us as a squad and the depth that we have right now.

The result was one of two that turned the division on its head in the opening round, after Leicestershire, who were bottom in 2022, stunned prohibitive favourites Yorkshire by scoring 392 for seven on the final day for an historic victory — the first by the Foxes at Headingley since 1910!

Leicestershire look like they showed a lot of character to chase down that total and obviously a lot of skill, too. Fair play to young Rishi Patel on his first championship hundred. I would assume they’ve been working very, very hard over the winter and been talking about trying to win. We weren’t far off them in terms of not winning many games last season. But for them to start like this, I know they’ll be buzzing as well.

It has been some week for rearguard action, as over in the Indian Premier League the number of last-ball wins has been off the chain. I hadn’t seen a great deal of it from the start because we’ve been doing a lot of training, but some of those games have been just fantastic.

Rinku Singh’s five successive sixes off left-arm fast bowler Yash Dayal on Sunday to win the match for Kolkata Knight Riders off the last ball against Gujarat Tigers was sensational.

Less than 24 hours later, Lucknow Super Giants produced the highest run chase of the early season when replying to Royal Challengers Bangalore’s 212 for two with 213 for nine — again off the final ball.

That just shows the skill level on display at the IPL, and how good that competition really is. A credit to them and the depth in the batting that someone can come in who is not probably one of your big players and can step up and win you a game like that.

Meanwhile, I’m still waiting to face my first ball of the season. Officially, I’m in against Kent’s second XI and have been since just after lunch on Tuesday at the fall of the third wicket for 175, but there has been no play since that dismissal brought an early tea because of rain and persistently wet conditions.

In England. Who knew?

• Delray Rawlins was talking to Dexter Smith

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Published April 13, 2023 at 7:51 am (Updated April 13, 2023 at 8:14 am)

Super job by the boys to get over the line

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