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REPORT: Sussex fall short despite Wells, van Zyl & Wright fifties


Sussex fell 45 runs short of victory on the final day of their captivating Specsavers County Championship match against Derbyshire at The 1st Central County Ground.

Three batsmen made it past fifty as Sussex set about chasing 390, but another irresistible bowling performance from Derbyshire seamer, Hardus Viljoen saw the home side fall short.

Derbyshire declared overnight on 322-8 giving Sussex 96 overs in which to try and secure a win that would keep their promotion hopes alive.

Sussex lost their first wicket in the third over when Angus Robson was caught at third slip off Viljoen.

That brought Stiaan van Zyl to the crease and he combined with Luke Wells to bring Sussex their first hundred partnership of the match.

Wells went to his third fifty of the Championship season - to go with two hundreds - just before lunch, which Sussex reached on 110-1.

Viljoen secured ten wickets in the match half-an-hour after the interval when Chris Nash was well-caught at second slip by Alex Hughes soon after Wells had been trapped leg-before for 77.

Wells’ 115-ball stay took him within 37 runs of a thousand Championship runs for the season.

Despite the double loss, van Zyl was unperturbed as he calmly continued his steady accumulation. He brought up his third fifty of the season with an exquisite cover drive in the 43rd over.

van Zyl’s latest partner, Luke Wright, was clearly buoyed by his battling first innings 70 as he pugnaciously set about finding the boundary. 

Consecutive Wright fours took Sussex to within 200 of their target and the 32-year old reached his second fifty of the match - his fourth of the season - two overs before tea.

Sussex went into the interval on 263-3 requiring 154 to win at a little over four runs per over and at this stage would have been justified in considering themselves favourites.

The evening session began with Derbyshire’s bowlers - including Viljoen - starting to look weary. van Zyl and Wright soon brought up the Sussex 250 and moments later their hundred partnership.

Viljoen found a new lease of life, however, and turned the game on its head when, in the space of four deliveries, he removed van Zyl, Ben Brown and Wright.

At 272-6 and still requiring 118 to win, Sussex were now on the back foot and were relying on their lower-order to see them home. 

Jofra Archer - averaging over 40 in the Championship this year - and Ollie Robinson - with recent form in getting his side over the line after his heroics at Colwyn Bay - added 31 for the seventh wicket, but both fell in consecutive Viljoen overs. 

Viljoen was denied all ten wickets, having to settle for 15 in the match instead, when Harry Podmore had both George Garton and David Wiese caught in the deep to end the chase.

Sussex’s 344 is their 13th highest fourth innings score in the Championship and another 45 runs would have seen them pull off their fifth highest successful fourth innings chase.

In reality, they needed one of their three half-centurions to go on, but Viljoen was simply too good on the day and, indeed, throughout the match.

Sussex take five points from defeat, but wins for Worcestershire and Northamptonshire have ended their hopes of promotion.

Reflecting honestly on the match, Sussex captain Ben Brown said: “I feel hugely disappointed.  But we lost the game in the first two days. I felt we bowled and batted poorly in the first two innings. And you can’t always claw it back.

“I thought we could have chased down those runs today, had we batted better at the end. The lads set it up nicely and the pitch gets extremely flat here on the fourth day at times.

“It’s not good enough to keep repeating the mistakes. It’s hugely frustrating for myself and all the players.  It’s not good enough, to be honest. And we have to put it right. It’s no good just talking about it.”

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