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Sussex 257 for 7 (Beer 76*, van Zyl 54) v Gloucestershire
Will Beer, opening for Sussex for the first time, scored a career-best 76 not out against Gloucestershire on the opening day of their County Championship Division Two match at Arundel.
Beer could not be described as a like-for-like replacement for the in-form dasher Phil Salt, who is missing this game with a badly cut left hand, sustained in the match against Middlesex at Lord’s last week. In that same match, leg-spinner Beer made an unbeaten 50 batting at No.9, his highest score at the time. That showing and some good form with the second team, for whom he averages over 100 in all formats, led Beer to be promoted up the order in what was only his 18th first-class match, despite having made his Sussex debut in 2008.
This game got under way with conditions still damp after heavy rain the previous day. The pitch was low and slow, and the outfield was difficult. Because of this, and some mean bowling from the Gloucestershire seamers, Sussex were 47 for 2 at lunch. It felt like retro cricket as Beer and Luke Wells 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 was caught behind for 15, scored off 77 deliveries. Sussex were 34 for 1 after batting for an hour and a half. Then Harry Finch, flat-footed and playing away from his body, was caught behind off Payne for 10. Beer lunched unbeaten on 17 off 85 balls.
In the afternoon, the cricket brightened up through a combination of a drying sun and some positive stroke play from Stiaan van Zyl. Van Zyl 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 didn’t make the most of his reprieve – he was caught at long-off for 24. When Ben Brown was bowled by Taylor for a chirpy, 32-ball 33 Sussex were 241 for 5 . But Beer battled on with the air of a man intent on carrying his bat. He has faced 276 balls – most of them dots.
As well as Salt, Sussex are without fast bowler Mir Hamza, who is suffering from a stiff back and has been replaced by Abi Sakande.