Confusion over elbow injury leaves Sussex captain Ben Brown shorn of options
Jofra Archer was conspicuous by his absence from Sussex’s attack on the third day
Kent 145 and 220 for 3 (Crawley 85, Leaning 61*) lead Sussex 256 (Quinn 5-54, Gilchrist 3-51, Stevens 3-64) by 109 runs
We had to wait for our cricket on this third evening at Hove but one suspects we will remember it. Heavy showers delayed the start of play until five o’clock, by which time only 24 overs could be bowled. What we then saw and what we did not witness will interest the supporters of both teams and concern the England hierarchy as it prepares for a very hard year of international cricket.
Chief among the delights was the batting of Zak Crawley and Jack Leaning, whose 130-run fourth-wicket partnership should help Kent avoid defeat in this match, especially if tomorrow’s weather is as poor as has been forecast. Taking the gong for best supporting actor was the Sussex off-spinner, Jack Carson, who took Crawley’s wicket and whose engaging enthusiasm for his work was plain.
But, rather like the non-activity of the dog in the night-time, the studied quiescence of Jofra Archer standing at mid-on or deep midwicket with his hands in his pockets also commanded our attention. Archer did nothing except field a few balls today. On an evening when his team-mates were pulling their tripes out to take the wickets that might secure a much-needed win for Sussex, he effectively did nothing, although it was later disclosed by the Sussex coach Ian Salisbury that Archer’s sore elbow had prevented him adding to the five overs he had bowled on Friday evening.
Initially it was astonishing that Archer did not add to the brief spell he had bowled on Friday evening, especially as this is a game in which he is supposed to proving his match fitness in advance of an absurdly busy year. More disturbingly for Sussex supporters, it appeared that Archer’s county captain, Ben Brown, wanted his spearhead to deliver the second of the day’s 24 overs and had the briefest of discussions with him after Ollie Robinson had opened the bowling from the Cromwell Road End.
At the end of the chat Brown seemed to gesticulate towards Archer and called up George Garton from the slips. Sussex coach Ian Salisbury later disclosed that Archer’s long-standing elbow injury had prevented him bowling.
“I think there was some confusion over the state of his elbow,” said Salisbury. “Ben thought he was going to bowl but his elbow’s sore and so he couldn’t bowl. Regarding any other information about his elbow, it’s the ECB’s job to answer that. If he’s sore today, he’s not going to bowl tomorrow.”
Nevertheless, two further questions remain: if Archer had a sore elbow, why did the ECB allow him to field and risk further injury? And secondly, given that Archer has bowled a mere 18 overs in this game, how can he be risked in a five-day Test until he has proved his fitness, probably by taking a full part in a four-day county match?
When asked why Archer was on the field if he was not fit, Salisbury replied that both Archer and Brown “were desperate to win games for Sussex. Ben’s disappointment stems from the fact that one of his premier bowlers wasn’t available and we’re desperate to win this game against our local rivals”.
And it would certainly be a shame if discussions regarding Archer detracted completely from what was a short and well-contested session. For nearly an hour it looked as though Crawley would make the century he had failed to collect against Yorkshire just over a week ago. But, rather as he did at Headingley, the England batsman gave it away when an attempted reverse-sweep only inside-edged a catch to the diving Aaron Thomason at short leg.
Crawley had made 85 and had wasted his second successive opportunity to make the sort of contribution for which he admits he is searching. Such an opportunity was not passed up by Leaning, who collected his second half-century of the match and batted with great assurance, albeit he had to survive a supremely confident appeal for a catch behind the wicket off Robinson, who also had his namesake dropped on 8 by Thomason at first slip.
Our day ended in glorious sunshine and we can only hope for the best tomorrow. Carson, Garton and Delray Rawlins all bowled a single spell this evening. Having bowled the first over of the session, Robinson also bowled the last. His figures encompassing two spells today read 9-1-31-0. They did not do him an atom of justice. He, at least, should be playing Test cricket before long.
Paul Edwards is a freelance cricket writer. He has written for the Times, ESPNcricinfo, Wisden, Southport Visiter and other publications
Source: ESPN Crickinfo