18th August 2017. The 1st Central County Ground. It is impossible to ignore the fact that Sussex Sharks were eliminated from the T20 Blast after this fixture against Essex Eagles, but looking at the match in isolation it is undoubtedly one of the performances of the year from both players and supporters.
The anticipation had been building throughout the week ahead of a must win match on Friday night. This made for an electric atmosphere from the moment the gates opened under sunny late summer skies in Hove.
Having been put into bat by the visitors, Sussex’s openers Chris Nash and Luke Wright received an almighty roar from a capacity crowd as they charged out to the middle. That charge continued right through the early overs, with both players channelling the energy flooding from the stands and returning it with interest in the form of sweetly struck fours and sixes. The opening pair raced along at over nine an over throughout the powerplay… and beyond. They would ultimately put on 84 for the first wicket inside nine overs.
In an all or nothing match, the Sharks knew they had to play without fear to secure the comprehensive win they would need to progress to the quarter finals. This clear-minded approach gave them the freedom to go hard, take risks and then reap the rewards.
There was no chance of changing down a gear, even after the loss of three quick wickets. Laurie Evans joined Nash at the crease in the 12th over and simply continued the carnage. The pair added another 68 runs in the next seven and a half overs, producing increasingly inventive shots, much to the crowd’s delight.
After Nash was bowled for 73 off 55 balls with nine balls remaining, it was left to Evans and David Wiese to take Sussex to 171-4 off their 20 overs. Evans finished unbeaten on 47 off just 34 balls.
There was a look of steely eyed-determination to the Sussex side as they took to the field. Their focus was made clear when George Garton took a cool catch at deep midwicket off Danny Briggs in the first over. Essex had spilled a number of chances earlier in the evening, but Sussex’s fielding was impeccable throughout the night.
The Sharks bowlers hunted as a pack. David Wiese struck twice in his second over; Dan Lawrence a victim of the safe hands of Phil Salt on for the injured Nash and Ravi Bopara caught behind by the skipper Ben Brown four balls later. Chris Jordan struck in the sixth over and at 46-4 after the powerplay, Essex – as well as the entire ground – were rocking!
With blood in the water, the Shark attack only became more ferocious. Will Beer was brought into the attack on picked up three wickets and Briggs picked up his second. There was some brief resistance from the Essex tail, before Jordan and Jofra Archer inflicted the final blows at the death. Essex all out for 117. Sussex Sharks win by 55 runs. Rob Key on the Sky Sports commentary summed it up: “It’s been a brilliant performance from Sussex. They’ve completely outplayed Essex.”
Ultimately, Sussex were knocked out of the tournament on net run rate as a result of Hampshire’s capitulation against Somerset and, it must be said, of missed opportunities earlier in the tournament.
On the night, however, it had been the complete performance from the Sussex Family. A muscular but skilful performance with the bat from the top order, wickets shared around by the bowlers, a faultless display in the field and a packed crowd of loyal supporters enjoying every moment and playing a huge part in the victory. A winning combination that led Adrian Harms from BBC Sussex to go so far as to call this “perhaps the best performance of the season”.
If you want to be part of the Sussex Family in 2018 and enjoy more incredible nights like this, check out the T20 Blast Pass. All seven home group games for one fantastic price.