Sussex opener Tom Haines made a career-best 155 as the visitors recovered from 40 for four to reach 291 for nine against Lancashire on the first day of the LV= County Championship match at Emirates Old Trafford.
Haines’ hundred, the third of his first-class career, came off 177 balls. It was his second in as many Championship matches - the 22-year-old scored 117 against Surrey at the Oval in Sussex's final match of last year's Bob Willis Trophy - and helped Sussex to recover from a grim morning after their decision to bat first looked like it had backfired.
Lancashire were still dominant when they reduced Sussex to 127 for six midway through the afternoon session, but Haines and Ollie Robinson had come within one run of doubling that score when Sussex's newly-appointed vice-captain was caught behind off Saqib Mahmood for 59.
Having batted for 357 minutes and hit 20 fours, Haines was finally dismissed with eight overs of the day remaining when his tired swish edged a catch to Alex Davies and gave Tom Bailey his third wicket of the day.
The first session of play was controlled by Dane Vilas’s attack. Makeshift opener Aaron Thomason was castled for three when playing no shot at Saqib Mahmood and Stiaan van Zyl’s first competitive innings for Sussex since 2019 ended when he was leg before wicket to Tom Bailey for a seven-ball duck.
Tom Clark also perished for nought when he hooked Luke Wood’s fifth ball of the morning straight to Danny Lamb at long leg and Bailey returned to have Sussex skipper Ben Brown caught at slip by Steven Croft for four. But the visitors’ spirits were raised in the morning’s final over when Haines, having been hit on the hand by Lamb took 12 runs off the next four deliveries, thereby reaching his fifty off 94 balls.
The opener had added 66 with Delray Rawlins when his partner was leg before wicket for 18 when not attempting a shot to a ball from Wood. George Garton was caught by Keaton Jennings off Lamb for 10 but Robinson adopted a more aggressive approach and that rubbed off on Haines. Having been dropped twice at second slip by Croft during the morning, the Sussex opener was put down again by Jennings at first slip off Josh Bohannon when he had made 121.
Robinson eventually fell to the new ball and Haines was dismissed five overs later. The pair’s 126-run stand set a new seventh-wicket for Sussex against Lancashire. Bailey was the most successful bowler with three for 41 but Wood, Mahmood and Lamb also took two wickets.
Reflecting on his innings, Haines said, "It was a tough day, we had to graft for our runs and I’m chuffed to bits with that score. They gave us nothing in that first spell. I was lucky when that chance went down but we’re a club that really needs to stick together and show fight. I think we’ve done that today.
"Ollie Robinson helped me but so did Delray. You get into trouble if you go searching on 99 and I just had to wait for the bad ball. The career-best wasn’t on my mind but then I heard a clap on 125 and I thought ‘oh it’s that one’.
"I’ve been practising so hard over the last few months and I feel like a different player. I’m not so lazy in training and it’s been a real attitude switch. It’s come from within. I wasn’t enjoying my cricket in 2019 and it was quite demoralising, so I went back to a few coaches I’d had when I was younger and they told me I had all the ability but it was a mental game."
Offering Lancashire's perspective on the day's play, Bailey said, "I think we’re just about on top. We knew it was a good pitch, especially for this time of year and we were going to bat first as well. Five degrees and blowing a gale is hardly a bowler’s dream but I thought the lads put in a really solid day’s work.
"I’ve had a few niggles coming into this game so it was nice to get 20 overs in and feel fresh. We bowled really well and probably could have taken a few more. You’re battling when a guy gets 150 and we’re probably kicking ourselves that we dropped Haines."
Watch day two live from 11am on Friday on the Sussex Cricket Match Centre
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