|Ground:||County Ground, Taunton|
|Scorecard:||Somerset v Sussex|
|Event:||LV County Championship 2014|
Match Report: SOMERSET v SUSSEX, Day 1
This is an important match for both Somerset and Sussex, just below the top layer in Division One of the county championship. The first days play belonged to Somerset, spoiled only by a struggling but determined innings by Ed Joyce.
Dropped before he had scored, Joyce scarcely looked an international player to the eye, as his actual form was unimpressive, but he showed the heart of a champion in the way he battled it out, refusing to give it away, right to the close when he was left on 99 overnight with the last man in. With no prolonged support for him at the other end, it would have been a disastrous day for Sussex had he not stuck it out with such determination.
Both teams had some leading players missing through injury: Michael Yardy and Jon Lewis were absent from the Sussex team, last-minute withdrawals, while Luke Gregory and Steve Kirby were out of the Somerset side. Sussex won the toss and decided to bat on a pitch with some green in it, more than the traditional Taunton flat deck. The morning was quite warm but mostly overcast, and the weather became more unsettled later in the day. They probably wondered quite often during the day if they had done the right thing.
There was some fine new-ball bowling by Alfie Thomas and Peter Trego, who found some movement with pace and accuracy, and the Sussex batsmen never looked comfortable. In the fifth over Luke Wells (6) edged a catch to second slip off Thomas, and Rory Hamilton-Brown drove unwisely at a ball from Trego and played it on to his stumps; 10 for two, and thereafter it was a battle.
The most critical moment of the day took place at this point, as Joyce nudged a ball from Trego outside the off stump and the wicketkeeper Craig Kieswetter flung himself across in front of first slip but failed to hold the chance. It was to prove a costly mistake. Not that the Irishman was in form; he played a few strokes of class now and again, but on the whole he looked uncertain, scratchy and was often beaten during his long innings. But he did hang in there, thanks to the missed chance, and held the innings together.
The opener Chris Nash was the next to go, caught in the slips off Trego for 15; 25 for three. Matt Machan took the aggressive option, going for his strokes and scoring 30 off the same number of balls before he tried to slash a ball on the off side but dragged it on to his stumps, making the score 63 for four. Joyce at that time was stuck on 7 runs, but he had moved to 18 by lunch, when the score was 84 for four.
Play had scarcely started after lunch when the first burst of rain came and almost an hour elapsed before play resumed. The team 100 came up in the 37th over. Luke Wright was not in his most fluent form in his innings of 24, ending when he chopped a ball from Trego on to his stumps; 118 for five.
Soon after this Joyce, on 36, almost enjoyed a second life, when a low snick into the slips off Thomas just failed to reach the fielder. He reached his laborious fifty off 142 balls before he lost a rather scratchy Ben Brown, who made 7; when he finally unleashed a powerful cover drive, he found Johann Myburgh flinging himself low to his right to pick up a superb catch. This made the score 146 for six, which had progressed to 163 for six at tea, Joyce by now on 67 and his new partner Steffan Piolet 3.
Play started late after the interval due to more rain, and then Piolet, who had scarcely played a shot in anger, nudged a gentle catch to the keeper off Thomas for 4; 166 for seven. Joyce continued to hang in there, far from fluent but determined to keep his wicket intact. Despite his struggles, the Sussex captain never lost his concentration, never played a careless or desperation shot.
Will Beer (8) was next to go, quite beaten by George Dockrell as his off stump was knocked out of the ground; 192 for eight, and Joyce now on 85. Craig Overton trapped James Anyon lbw for three and, with four overs to go in the days play, the last man Steve Magoffin came in to join Joyce, who was now on 97. When close of play arrived, late due to the rain, he had 99 to his credit, almost half his teams total of 210 for nine, and lived to fight another day.
(Article: Copyright © 2014 John Ward)