Prior shows his class in Sussex win

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Michael Bates & Matt Prior

England wicketkeeper-batsman Matt Prior steered hosts Sussex to a five-wicket victory over struggling Hampshire with an unbeaten 97

Matt Prior warmed up for next week’s first npower Test against India at Lord’s by hitting a brilliant unbeaten 97 to guide Sussex to a five-wicket LV= County Championship victory against Hampshire at the PROBIZ County Ground.

Prior’s 167-ball innings included 12 fours and represented a batting masterclass on a sluggish pitch, which had made run-scoring difficult for the previous three days.

Sussex, needing 233 for their fourth championship win of the season, resumed on 82 for three and lost Luke Wells in the day’s fifth over when Dominic Cork angled a shortish ball across the young left-hander and had him caught at waist height by Neil McKenzie at first slip.

Wells had added only five runs to his overnight 29 but, from 105 for four, Prior and Andrew Hodd at first steadied the innings and then flourished, with Prior the main aggressor and Hodd sensibly content to provide understated support.

Prior, who began the day on two, was initially severe on Imran Tahir – taking two boundaries from his opening over with a powerful whip through midwicket and then a delicate leg-glance. Soon Tahir had been replaced by Briggs at the Sea End, with Cork coming down the Hove slope throughout the opening hour.

An intriguing morning’s cricket - during which Prior twice pulled savage boundaries off Kabir Ali and Sean Ervine but mainly concentrated on working the ball into the gaps – ended with Sussex on 184 for four at lunch.

In addition, South Africa leg-spinner Tahir was removed from the Hampshire attack in the final over of the morning by umpire David Millns, after two previous warnings for running on the pitch.

Hodd’s dismissal, bowled by one that kept low from left-arm spinner Briggs in the second over after the interval, gave Hampshire their last chance to upset the home side but Prior stood firm and, knocked off the remaining runs in the company of Ollie Rayner.

Prior added 81 with Hodd and then another unbroken 49 with Rayner, who finished on 22 not out and prevented the England wicketkeeper-batsman from reaching a hundred by hitting the winning boundary through square third man off Sean Ervine.

Prior was not bothered about that and embraced Rayner in the middle of the pitch as the win was clinched.

Hampshire, for whom this was a fifth championship defeat in eight matches, remain rooted to the bottom of the Division One table. Sussex, by contrast, climb to fourth.

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