County Championship 2021 – Alex Davies salvo sets up Lancashire chase after Sussex squander sizeable lead | Cricket


Alex Davies fired Lancashire’s chase with 73 from 59 balls © Getty Images

Lancashire 230 (Carson 4-51) and 124 for 2 (Davies 73) need a further 129 to beat Sussex 328 and 154 (Bailey 3-28)

Explaining to a youngster who hasn’t yet been to Hove the location of the 1st Central County Ground she, of course, wondered what would happen if a batter “hit the biggest shot ever and it landed in the sea”.

As fanciful as that is at anytime, there was zero chance when the third day appeared, for a large part, to belong to the bowlers with 16 wickets falling and Sussex conceding a buoyant position before clawing their way back to set Lancashire a victory target of 253.

But then Alex Davies took charge of Lancashire’s pursuit, and changed the complexion of the game, the emptiness of the stands making it sound as though he’d swapped his bat for a rifle as he cracked 10 fours and a six on his way to a rapid-fire 73 off just 59 balls. His 102-run stand with Keaton Jennings ensured the visitors had closed the requirement to 129 with a full day ahead and eight wickets in hand.

Jennings was unbeaten with 35 off 85 balls after Jack Carson claimed his fifth wicket of the match, snaring Luke Wells lbw within a breath of stumps, which arrived slightly earlier than scheduled in fading light.

With Carson having spun the hosts into a position of strength by the end of the second day, with Lancashire 193 for 6 in reply to Sussex’s first-innngs 328, Jamie Atkins, the teenage quick on debut, picked up where they had left off when he had Josh Bohannon out lbw in the third over of the morning.

With Bohannon gone, having added 11 to his overnight score of 26, it looked like a case of the Sussex bowlers simply cleaning up the tail as Henry Crocombe bowled Tom Bailey with a beauty that sent leg stump cartwheeling and Stuart Meaker, who had bowled economically for just one wicket, added two more as Lancashire were all out for 230 within the first hour, still 98 runs adrift.

Meaker finished with 3 for 22 from 13.2 overs after he had Danny Lamb, the other not-out batsman overnight, lbw and Matt Parkinson caught behind by Ben Brown off a short ball that clipped the glove. Carson ended with 4 for 51.

But batting proved no easier for Sussex. They stumbled to lunch at 37 for 3 and, were it not for a tenacious 45 from Delray Rawlins, they might have struggled to stay in the match.

Lamb made the breakthrough for Lancashire, when he had Aaron Thomason out edging to Wells, who took a fluid catch moving to his right at first slip. Tom Bailey then rattled through the rest of the top order either side of lunch, ensuring there would be no reprise of the first-innings half-centuries by the in-form Tom Haines and Stiaan van Zyl as he accounted for the pair, and Tom Clark, cheaply.

Bailey claimed an impressive 3 for 28 from 10 overs, including five maidens, while Lamb, Liam Livingstone and Matt Parkinson took two wickets apiece.

Livingstone looked to have hurt himself fielding at second slip when a ball struck sharply by Meaker took an awkward bounce into Livingstone’s right hand, drawing a yelp of pain. But he was soon clapping vigorously in encouragement of Saqib Mahmood, who worked hard for his solitary wicket. Livingstone bowled the very next over, a maiden, and it wasn’t long before he had Meaker caught spooning the ball to Steven Croft at midwicket.

Parkinson only entered the attack in the over before tea and struck with his third ball, a full and floating delivery that struck Carson’s pad right in line with middle stump after a handy 21 off 27 to send Sussex to the break at 139 for 8, a lead of 237.

Parkinson’s next over was an eventful one, echoing the theme of the day. Rawlins reverse-swept his first ball for four and sent him to the boundary again two balls later with a conventional sweep. But Parkinson had the final say when Rawlins erroneously left a sharp-turning legspinner that jagged back into the top of off-stump, the batter punching his thigh pad in fury with himself before turning on his heel to walk off.

Livingstone had the last man out, Crocombe, with the sixth lbw decision of the innings and 11th for the match up to that point. Sussex were all out for 154, a lead of 252 which, given the steady crash of wickets, looked to at least have given their bowlers something to aim at.

Davies had other ideas, though. In the fifth over of the run chase, he helped himself to 18 off Crocombe, pulling the first ball for six and ending it with consecutive fours.

He brought up his fifty off 36 balls with a four clipped through midwicket off George Garton and was bitterly disappointed when he fell to Meaker’s back-of-a-length delivery which found an inside edge onto his stumps, Davies throwing his head to the bright evening sky in anguish.

But he and his side had good reason for cheer at the close, with victory a more realistic proposition than any beachcombers having to duck for cover.

Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo

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