A potentially soft underbelly was there to be exposed and, on a second day of unblemished blue skies and bitterly cold winds, Yorkshire exposed it, coming back into the game to dismiss the hosts for 221 before posting 163-5 in their second innings, a lead of 92.
Andrew Gale, the Yorkshire first team coach, had said that his side had to win all three sessions of the day to turn things around, and although the final session was claimed by Sussex, the contest is now intriguingly poised.
Gale had cut a suitably frustrated figure on the first evening but he would have been proud of this fightback, one which spoke well for his side’s character as well as for their cricketing capabilities.
One man whose character and cricketing capabilities have never been in question is Adam Lyth, the Yorkshire opener. After Duanne Olivier and Steve Patterson each took four wickets to keep the Sussex lead to manageable levels, Lyth helped to wipe it out with his fifth score of fifty-plus in six County Championship innings this year.
Lyth’s 66 followed a contribution of 42 in the first innings and scores of 97 and 116 against Kent at Canterbury and 52 and 115 not out against Glamorgan at Headingley.
The 33-year-old left-hander is the country’s second-highest run-scorer with 488 at 97 behind Durham’s David Bedingham (512 at 128), his batting as pleasing on the eye as the Hove ground itself.
“It’s been a lovely start to the season personally and I’m really happy with the way it’s going,” said Lyth, who faced 101 balls and hit 11 fours. “It was a fantastic fightback by the lads, and anything over 200 (lead) we’d take and would be a tricky chase.”
The day was just over an hour old when Yorkshire struck for the first time with the ball after Sussex resumed 32 behind, Olivier bowling Tom Clark as the South African tore down the hill from the Cromwell Road end.
Until then, Clark and Tom Haines, the left-handed opener, had proceeded in relatively untroubled manner, adding a further 50 runs to take the hosts to 168-3 as the early cries of encouragement among the Yorkshire fielders waned on the wind.
When Haines departed two balls later, bowled by Dom Bess for the top score of 86 to give the off-spinner his first wicket of the season after 83 unrewarded overs, those cries returned with a vengeance as Sussex started their slide into freefall. They tumbled to 179-6 when Delray Rawlins chipped Olivier to cover, where Joe Root flew through the air to take a looping catch away to his right.
Ben Brown, the Sussex captain, counter-attacked by taking on Bess with the reverse-sweep, striking eight boundaries in total in a punchy 37.
But Brown was the first of four wickets for opposite number Patterson which ended the hosts’ innings either side of lunch, Patterson bowling Ollie Robinson and Jack Carson before having George Garton brilliantly caught by a leaping Tom Kohler-Cadmore at first slip. Patterson finished with 4-26 and Olivier 4-61 as Sussex lost their last seven wickets for 53 runs.
Sean Hunt, the left-arm pace bowler, was left unbeaten after batting with a side strain suffered earlier in the contest that will prevent him from bowling again in the game – a case of history repeating after exactly the same thing happened to Kent’s Harry Podmore last week when Yorkshire visited Canterbury.
A bowler down, and holding a lead of 71 runs that should have been more, Sussex saw that lead evaporate as Lyth and Kohler-Cadmore added 90 for the first wicket in fluent style.
Lyth reached his latest fifty from 80 balls with nine boundaries but had a let-off on 63 when he was dropped at deep square-leg by Alastair Orr, substituting for Hunt, off the off-spinner Carson. Two balls later, Carson lured Kohler-Cadmore down the track and wicketkeeper Brown whipped off the bails, precipitating another twist in this low-scoring game.
Three overs later, Lyth was lbw to Robinson, and then Root fell for five for the second time in the match when he pushed forward to Carson and was perhaps unluckily given out caught behind.
Harry Brook was also caught behind, driving at Garton, and Jonny Tattersall taken at slip playing forward to Carson, but Gary Ballance held firm in increasingly challenging conditions.
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