Will Beer, opening for Sussex for the first time in the County Championship, scored a career-best 76 not out against Gloucestershire on the first day of the Rathbones Arundel Festival of Cricket.
He could not be described as a like-for-like replacement for the in-form dasher Phil Salt, who is missing this game after surgery on his injured left hand, sustained in the match against Middlesex at Lord’s last week.
In that same match leg-spinner Beer, batting at number nine, made an unbeaten 50, his highest Championship score at the time. Because of that, and some good form with the second team, for whom he averages over 100 in all forms of competition this season, he was selected to go in first with Luke Wells. Beer made his Sussex debut in 2008, but this is only his 18th first-class match.
The game got under way with conditions still damp after heavy rain the previous day. The pitch was low and slow, and the outfield made scoring runs difficult too. Because of this, and some mean bowling from the Gloucestershire seamers, Sussex were only 47 for two at lunch. It felt like retro cricket as both batsmen fought to see off the opening bowlers David Payne and Chadd Sayers and take the shine off the new ball. After 12 overs the score was 15 without loss.
Then Matt Taylor and Ryan Higgins replaced the new-ball attack and, very slowly, the scoring picked up. Wells hit a back foot cover drive off Payne for four. Then Beer cover-drove Higgins for four before leg-glancing Taylor for another.
The loss of two wickets in the half hour before lunch heaped more responsibility on Beer. Wells received a delivery from Taylor which left him late and he and was caught behind for 15, scored off 77 deliveries. Sussex were 34 for one after an hour and a half of batting. Then Harry Finch was caught behind off Payne for ten. Beer lunched unbeaten on 17, scored off 85 balls.
In the afternoon the cricket brightened up through a combination of a drying sun and some positive strokeplay from Stiaan van Zyl. The South African - who had been presented with his county cap during the lunch break - hit an 89-ball 54 before he scooped a drive to mid-on.
Laurie Evans was badly dropped at wide mid-off early on, but he wasn't so lucky when he was caught at long-off for 24. That made it 199 for four, which became 241 for five when Ben Brown was bowled by Taylor for a chirpy, 32-ball 33. But Beer battled on, with the air of a man intent on carrying his bat. He has faced 276 balls - most of them dots - and been out in the middle
Speaking after more than six hours' in the middle, Beer said: "I’ve been opening a bit for the second team and we wanted to play an extra spinner here, so the chance came along. Hopefully I can get a few more runs – and wickets – tomorrow.
“It was tricky out there for an hour or two. It was old-school, attritional four-day cricket. I started at Sussex, at Under-10 level, as an opening batter, before my leg-spin took over. Bowling is my main skill. But I’ve always worked hard at my batting and consider myself an all-rounder.”
Rathbone Investment Management is proud to sponsor the Rathbones Arundel Festival of Cricket. To celebrate this great sporting event, they are offering the opportunity to win a framed and signed Sussex CCC Specsavers County Championship shirt. To enter, visit www.rathbones.com/rafc, competition entries close on 25th June 2019. The winner will be contacted by 28th June 2019.