Evans and Azad in form at Sussex

SCORE | Day 1, Second XI Friendly (3 days): Sussex Second XI v Leicestershire Second XI 290-5


REPORT | By Pete Johnson

After visiting Blackpool last month to play Lancashire, the Second XI had another seaside special on their hands as they travelled to Brighton to take on Sussex in a three-day Second XI Friendly. The venue for the fixture is Sussex’s Blackstone Academy Ground at Henfield, which is some 10 miles from Brighton.

The Blackstone Academy Ground has used by Sussex CCC for the past five seasons, and is currently sponsored by Hurstpierpoint, a local Independent School. I noticed from posters in the Pavilion that a game called Stoolball is played in the summer months on Tuesday and Thursday evenings at the ground. Apparently it is an East Sussex game, and is a form of rounders. It is the first time that I had heard of it, never been on my radar before.

The scorers are situated in the scoreboard to the far right as you egress the Pavilion, and are at third man to a right hander, when a bowler is operating from The Woodmancote End (opposite to the Pavilion End). Anyone of a green fingered persuasion, would feel much at home secreted inside the scoreboard with its interior akin to a top of the range garden shed.

Only 72 overs of the allocated 104 available in the day were possible due to prevailing bad light after the tea Interval, play being subsequently abandoned for the day. During the play that was possible Leicestershire had an opening partnership of 162 between Sam Evans and Hassan Azad. When they were eventually dismissed Evans had made 94, and Azad 70 with Leicestershire CCC closing at 288 for five.

Evans skippered Leicestershire, called correctly, and elected to bat. It was a dull blustery day, with the weather having an end of season feel to it. The handful of spectators present were firmly wrapped up against the elements.

Triallist Jack White, a right arm seamer, was making his debut for Leicestershire Second XI. Evans and Azad opened the innings against an opening attack of left arm paceman George Garton, and right arm seamer Ish Sohi. Evans and Azad had previously opened the innings together for Loughborough MCCU in the past.

Evans and Azad rattled up a 50 partnership from 11.5 overs, Evans being the dominant partner. Azad, however, took boundaries from consecutive balls from Garton, which were followed by a fearsome bouncer.

Azad calmly leans the upper part of his body and head backwards to a bouncer, never taking his eye off the ball, giving the impression he is checking for any spelling mistakes on the maker’s name displayed on the ball as it whistles past his nose.

Evans, meanwhile was treating the bowling dismissively, drilling Joe Cook through mid-wicket for a boundary. Cook was unable to find the right recipe to trouble Evans, who was looking in imperious form. Evans clipped a slower ball from left arm seamer Adam Barton through extra cover for three to bring up his 50 (62b, 9x4) with County at 82-0 from 18.2 overs.

Just afterwards Evans played the shot of the morning, in my opinion, dispatching Garton to the ropes through extra cover. Another left arm paceman, AP Barton, also not troubling Evans, who was showing he was the real McCoy.

Openers Evans and Azad brought up their 100 partnership after 23.5 overs. Evans then proceeded to dispatch a rapid delivery from Garton over long-leg for a maximum. Will Beer was introduced into the attack a few overs before lunch at the Pavilion End, fortunately for Sussex Beer had no long hops in his barrel.

Leicestershire went into lunch on 147-0 from 35 overs. Evans 92* (122b) and Azad 39* (91b). During the luncheon interval I was somewhat surprised to see Azad tucking into his lunch, and not having gone for a net, as he just relishes being at the crease.

In the third over after lunch, Evans’ (94, 135b) gem of an innings came to an end when he tried to lift leg-spinner Beer over the top, but was caught at long-on by Ish Sohi. A somewhat Happy Hour, or Happy Few Minutes for Beer. A peerless, or should it be pierless performance by Evans (there is part of one still standing on the Brighton seafront some 20 years after being ravaged by fire).

Aadil Ali joined ‘The Rock’ that was Azad, quite appropriate terminology when one finds oneself in Brighton. Aadil hit the ground running with his regulation maximum, quaffing Beer straight over the top of the Pavilion. Soon after this Beer was off, now where have I heard that before?

The left-handed Azad went to 50 (104b, 5x4) when he flicked Barton through mid wicket for two. Aadil had settled in nicely, taking boundaries off Barton, Beer and Garton. Azad and Aadil posted a 50 partnership from 75 balls when the score reached 212-1 from 50.1 overs.

Aadil (35, 57b) went stumped off Jack Carson, frankly a ‘cracker from Carson’. However, it’s not the way he tells ‘um, it’s the way he bowls ‘um. Leicestershire 222-2 from 53.5 overs. Four overs later with the light closing in the Umpires conferred, after which Sussex employed an all-spin attack. Had a pace bowler remained on, no doubt the players would have been taken from the field.

An all-spin attack actually worked in Sussex’s favour as spinner Will Collard picked up three quick wickets. Lewis Hill (14, 18b) was adjudged lbw to Collard, the score now 245-3 from 58.2 overs.

Azad (70, 152b) clipped a ball from Collard to mid-wicket, and was caught low down by Jonty Jenner. Another fine patient, watchful, and effective innings from Azad. Harry Swindells (4, 13b) was caught behind by Joe Billings off Collard.

Leicestershire CCC got to the tea interval without further loss thanks to Tom Wells (12*, 23b) and Tom Taylor (24*, 38b). Wells and Taylor both returning from injury, short term, and long term, respectively. County going into tea on 290-5 from 72 overs.

The covers were put on during the tea interval, and after inspections at 4pm, 4.30pm, and 5.00pm, the Umpires abandoned play for the day at 5.20pm as a result of bad light.

* This is the final match of the Second XI’s schedule of the 2018 season. Day two is scheduled to get underway at 10.30am today.