Sussex bounce back after opening defeat as Stiaan van Zyl seals chase

Sussex 202 and 144 for 3 (van Zyl 66* need a further 68 to beat Durham 224 and 189 (Harte 74, Wiese 5-43

Stiaan van Zyl scored an unbeaten century to guide Sussex to their first Specsavers Championship Division Two victory of the season, defeating Durham by six wickets at Emirates Riverside. Beginning the final day on 144 for 3, the visitors still had a challenge to score the 68 runs that would carry them over the line on a gloomy morning. Van Zyl continued his brilliant knock, defying the hosts with a resilient performance before upping the ante.

Laurie Evans did offer a chance in the morning session when he drilled a Chris Rushworth delivery straight to Jack Burnham at cover. A wicket could have exposed Sussex’s batting line-up to a nervy chase, but Burnham failed to grasp the opportunity – epitomising his side’s performance over the course of the match.

Evans made the most of his second life, reaching his fifty from 104 deliveries. Van Zyl then reached three figures with a nudge down to fine leg. Matt Salisbury removed Evans for 51, but Ben Brown knocked the next ball for the winning run to guide Sussex over the line, capping a resilient performance on the road from his side.

“To get a hundred in the last innings on the last day, I’m very proud of it,” van Zyl said. “It’s a great win for us. The Leicestershire game was disappointing. We let ourselves down there. That’s why this win means a lot to us, just to get that first win of the season.”

Durham will be frustrated by the manner of their defeat, failing to capitalise on advantageous positions in the match. They reduced the visitors to 71 for 7 in their first innings following fine bowling from James Weighell and Rushworth. However, Luke Wells, who played the innings of the match with an unbeaten 98, managed to grind out 131 runs for the final three wickets, bringing Sussex within 22 runs of Durham’s first-innings total.

“That was an unbelievable innings,” van Zyl said of Wells’s knock. “We knew if we got a partnership going this morning to get the runs to win below fifty we would see the body language in the field go down, then we could capitalise. The wicket was okay when the ball was softer. You just had to hang in there and get the runs.”

After losing quick wickets on the morning of day three, Durham appeared to be steady with Gareth Harte and Ned Eckersley at the crease. However, after scoring back-to-back boundaries, Eckersley smashed a delivery from medium-pacer Tom Haines straight at Evans.

The wicket sparked a collapse as Liam Trevaskis and Ben Raine fell within the space of three deliveries. Although Harte combined with the Durham lower order, the target of 212 set for the visitors was always going to be vulnerable to one significant partnership.

After losing Phil Salt and Haines, Wells and Van Zyl combined with a stand of 83 to see off the threat of the new ball and make significant inroads into the required total. Salisbury did give Durham brief hope when he dismissed Wells for 41, but van Zyl and Evans saw their way to the close and proceeded to whittle down the target on day four.

Durham were almost handed a lifeline only for Burnham to put down a simple chance. Sussex picked their moments to find the boundary and displayed the composure out in the middle. Van Zyl was the foundation of their success, reaching his first Championship century of the term from 149 deliveries.

Durham Lead High Performance Coach James Franklin branded his team’s two defeats from as many County matches in 2019 as not good enough.

“We’ve had our chances there’s no two ways about it,” Franklin said. “The game against Derbyshire we had them five down in the first session, and here we had Sussex 70-7. To end up on the losing side in both of those games is disappointing. The guys are hurting about that.

“We’ve had batting collapses as well, which is not great fun either. We’ve got plenty of scope to improve. It has been evident in our four innings this season that when we lose one, we can lose two or three quite quickly. Whether or not that is a little bit of reminiscence of what has been happening the last couple of years and we’re suffering a hangover of that, I’m not too sure. What we can do now is reflect on how we want to go about our Championship cricket.

“We’ve got a nice break now into our one-day cricket. We’ve got a whole campaign there to quickly get our minds focused on in the next couple of days. When we get back to Championship cricket in May, we’ve got to be very clear on what we’re about because these first two games aren’t good enough.”