Sussex tail frustrates Australia
Sussex’s tail wagged to keep Australia in the field virtually all day at Hove as they moved to within 38 of the touring side’s 349 for seven.
Though none of the 11 home batsmen in this 12-a-side friendly managed a half-century, Sussex fended off Australia’s four main strike bowlers well enough.
With their toil in the field over, Australia saw out seven overs without loss and an overall lead of 56 as Phillip Hughes finished on 17 and Simon Katich was yet to score.
A near 7,000-crowd had plenty to keep them entertained once Ricky Ponting declared his side’s overnight total in order to let loose his pace quartet.
Though the Hove pitch is generally flat and slow, the touring attack generated sufficient pace and menace to have the Sussex top order hopping about.
Sussex wicketkeeper Andrew Hodd took a blow to his neck after failing to avoid a Stuart Clark bouncer and, just before the close, former England seamer James Kirtley topped up the total with four leg byes after he ducked into a Brett Lee bouncer that grazed his helmet and flew past Brad Haddin to the ropes at fine leg.
It was appreciated by the partisan crowd, if not by Ponting and his perspiring bowlers who added to their own workload by conceding 40 extras, including 22 no balls.
Tasmanian Ben Hilfenhaus made the first breakthrough 3.2 overs into the day’s play, the 26-year-old trapping Sussex skipper Michael Yardy leg before for five as he shouldered arms.
Number three Ed Joyce, who scored a one-day century against Australia in 2007, looked at ease against the pace of Lee in his opening stint.
But the bustling Peter Siddle replaced Lee down the slope and wickets started to fall.
Left-handed Joyce, hurried into an attempted pull by Siddle’s bouncer, top-edged high to short fine-leg, allowing Haddin to sprint around and take a good catch.
Carl Hopkinson and Chris Nash, the only player to look truly comfortable all morning, raised the Sussex fifty when the former cover drove Siddle for four, but in doing so he merely agitated the bowler.
With his very next ball Siddle drew Hopkinson into a firm-handed push away from the body which he edged to Haddin, diving in front of first slip.
Having taken lunch on 98 for three, Sussex suffered a major setback three overs after the resumption when Nash, their most fluent and effective batsmen on show, went for a stylish 45 from 102 balls.
Playing back to a good-length ball from Clark, he nicked to second slip, where Ponting held a regulation chance to reduce Sussex to 109 for four.
England international Luke Wright attempted to take the attack to Lee when he switched to bowling up the slope from the Sea End, and was initially successful with two boundaries through the covers.
But Lee bent his back and put more into the next delivery to entice Wright, who made 22, into an airy drive away from the body that he could only clip to Michael Clarke at first slip.
Like Wright, the diminutive Rory Hamilton-Brown attempted to counter-attack, only to pay the ultimate price when Lee ran one back in off the seam to bowl him through the gate for 37.
It needed Robin Martin-Jenkins and Hodd to show tremendous character under pressure for Sussex to reach 200. They took tea still 130 in arrears.
The pair continued their dogged seventh-wicket stand of 86 until a lazy back-foot waft by Martin-Jenkins gifted Haddin a third catch of the innings.
Hodd fell in Clark’s next over for 40 when his attempted run down toward third man flew to slip, giving Clark respectable figures of 3-46.
Nathan Hauritz conceded 98 in his 18 overs of mediocre off-spin but Katich at least tasted some success with his leg-spin when he snared Ollie Rayner leg before for 25 after he missed an attempted sweep.
Lee returned down the slope to end the innings, bowling last man Kirtley to finish with 3-53, while Siddle, the pick of the attack in the early exchanges, took 2-33.