Sandri shocks Australia
Little-known South Africa-born pace bowler Pepler Sandri took the plaudits on the opening day of action on Australia’s Ashes tour by claiming 3-73 on his Sussex debut to help restrict the Australians to 349 for seven in ideal batting conditions at Hove.
The right-armed quick from Cape Town signed for Sussex in March, after an abortive bid to break into county cricket last season with Yorkshire, and he marked his bow with the scalp of Australia’s young batting virtuoso Phillip Hughes with only his 19th ball for the club.
Sandri, 26, has suffered with a side-strain and flu since arriving on the south coast and has struggled to break into the first team. His 26.5 overs for Sussex League outfit Hastings have proved wicket-less.
Yet Ricky Ponting’s side found the Cape Cobras strike bowler more than a handful up the Hove slope from the Sea End.
Hughes, the quixotic left-hander with a flair for the drive, made an immediate impact by piercing the cover field three times in the opening over of the game from James Kirtley.
A rapid, parched outfield and small boundaries gave batsmen full value for their strokes and, with 35 on the board in no time, Ponting must have delighted in his decision to bat first.
But Hughes then misjudged the length of a full ball, allowing Sandri to pluck out his middle stump and celebrate a notable first wicket for the county.
Ponting opened his boundary account with a crisp, trademark punch through the covers off Sandri and repeated the dose soon after leading to the introduction of Luke Wright, who, with only his fourth ball, moved one away from the Australian skipper to graze the edge of a defensive push and go through to wicketkeeper Andrew Hodd to send the tourists in at lunch at 90 for two.
Having hardly played a false shot in his 98-ball stay for 49, it came as a shock when, three overs after the break, Simon Katich aimed an airy waft at a wide, full-length ball from Sandri only to toe-end a chance to Michael Yardy at slip.
It sparked a mini-collapse during which the Australians lost three for one in 10 balls as Michael Hussey (32) pushed hesitantly forward to a Kirtley off-cutter to go leg before, then Marcus North nibbled outside off to give Hodd a second catch and Sandri, the holder of an Italian passport courtesy of his father Emiliano, his third success.
The tourists regrouped with a bright sixth-wicket stand of 114 in 36 overs between Brad Haddin and Michael Clarke that featured the first power-hitting of the day.
Haddin, on his way to a 108-ball 50, clubbed 16 off one over from rookie leg-spinner Will Beer, including two sixes.
One of those sixes rebounded off the front of the press box, the other crashed through a pavilion window and onto the floor of the bar.
Their fun ended when Haddin slogged off-spinner Ollie Rayner to long-on where Sandri snaffled a well-judged catch. Then, four balls later, Clarke (45) checked his drive to give Rayner a sharp return catch low to his left.
It proved to be the last Sussex success of the day though and, as fatigue set in amongst the attack, so eighth-wicket partners Brett Lee (47) and Nathan Hauritz with a 62-ball half-century (65 not out) made hay to add an unbroken 117 in 26 overs through to the close.