Sussex seamer Ollie Robinson took career-best figures of 8 for 34 against Middlesex on a remarkable first day in the Specsavers County Championship match at The 1st Central County Ground.
The 25-year-old, who is on England’s radar after making his Lions debut last month, took the first eight wickets to fall as Middlesex slumped to 44 for 8 before recovering partially to 75 all out. Sussex were 128 for 3 at stumps, a lead of 53.
Robinson’s return was the best in the County Championship this season and enhanced the seamer’s already remarkable record against Middlesex. In three matches he has taken 46 wickets including 18 this season (plus four in the Vitality Blast) – with the opportunity to add to that figure in the second innings.
Robinson walked off at tea to a standing ovation and was presented with his county cap by Sussex skipper Ben Brown. His figures are the best by a Sussex bowler at Hove since Ted James took 9 for 60 against Yorkshire in 1955.
Middlesex had been put in following a delayed start at 2.30pm because of morning rain and Robinson was on a roll straight away when he picked up a wicket with the first ball of the match as Sam Robson edged to wicketkeeper Ben Brown pushing forward.
Bowling an exemplary off-stump line and length and finding just enough seam movement, six of his victims were caught behind the wicket with Harry Finch claiming two catches at second slip including Eskinazi and James Harris who departed in the space of three balls in the 13th over.
His second victim Nick Gubbins was his 200th in the County Championship and when Nathan Sowter became his eighth in his ninth over Robinson was on course to take all ten wickets. Such was his control, he was only hit for one boundary in front of square. He now has 48 Championship wickets in just eight games at 15.48 this season.
Robinson was among the first to congratulate Tom Haines when he had Toby Roland Jones caught by Finch driving at an away-swinger and after last man Tim Murtagh had slogged 20 – along with Eskinazi (24) the only batsman to reach double figures – leg-spinner Will Beer ended the innings when Steven Finn (5) padded up. Middlesex’s total was the lowest Championship score at Hove since Sussex were dismissed for 71 by Gloucestershire 19 years ago.
Both sides need to win to keep their second division promotion hopes alive and Sussex were soon in trouble themselves at 15 for 3. Phil Salt clipped the third ball from Tim Murtagh to mid-wicket, Haines drove loosely at Toby Roland-Jones and was taken at gully and Roland-Jones had a second wicket when Harry Finch was leg before for a duck.
But Luke Wells and Australian Alex Carey, who was making his Championship debut, put on an unbeaten 113 for the fourth wicket with Wells reaching his 50 just before the close when he drove Nathan Sowter through the off side for his ninth boundary. He will resume on 52 while Carey is unbeaten on 46.
At the close, Robinson said: "I have got a wicket before with the first ball against Hampshire a couple of years ago so it was a nice feeling to do it again and I got on a bit of a roll.
"The pitch didn't do massive amounts, it just did enough to get the nicks. There was a bit of bounce as well and the wickets just came. I certainly didn't expect to stand here at the end of it with eight wickets so I'm grateful for that.
"When Tom [Haines] got the ninth wicket I was still angry because I thought I'd got Toby Roland-Jones lbw in the previous over. When I got the eighth I was definitely thinking about all ten but it was still a good day!
"Then I walked off and got my cap which was a nice moment and out of the blue. I am really chuffed, especially as my family were here too. It means a lot."