Zaib to the rescue as Northants recover on day one of clash with Sussex

Saif Zaib hit a half-century for Northants
Saif Zaib hit a half-century for Northants

Saif Zaib scored a crucial half-century to rescue Northants on the first day of their Specsavers County Championship Division Two clash with Sussex at Hove.

The County were in desperate trouble at 99 for six, with Ollie Robinson wreaking havoc for the home side, but Zaib and the lower order provided some much needed resistance to turn things round and steer Northants to 273 all out.

Ben Sanderson and Brett Hutton then took a wicket apiece to reduce the home side to seven for two at the close, and ultimately ensure this was a good day for David Ripley's men.

Zaib, making his Championship debut, hit 54 from 109 balls, and along with skipper Adam Rossington (35), Hutton (24), Nathan Buck (34no) and Sanderson (28) frustrated Sussex, for whom Robinson ended with six for 63 from 24 overs.

Zaib (said: "We were in a bit of a sticky situation, but me and Rossie played quite well and the team finished off in a good position.

"Rossie and I decided to stick in. He’s quite an aggressive player and he decided that if it was in his half he would hit it for four. It was just a case of waiting for the right ball.

“It was nice to get a few partnerships going, and it was a great feeling to get a half century in my first championship game.

"I’ve played some one-day stuff but I haven’t had much of a chance in the champo.”

Sussex bowler Robinson said: "I thought everyone bowled well this morning, but in the first few overs I bowled I thought the pitch was a bit slow. It wasn’t really nipping.

"But then the shine came off the ball and it got a bit nippier.

"We ran out of steam a little bit and we missed Chris Jordan today. On another day we might have bowled them out for 160."

Northants have replaced Durham at the foot of the table and are still looking for their first championship win of the season.

Their hopes of making an impact were encouraged by the number of Sussex absentees.

They were already without Joffra Archer, who is playing in the World Cup for England, and the injured Mir Hamza, and before this match all-rounder Jordan (tonsillitis) and Stiaan van Zyl (tennis elbow) pulled out.

Robinson broke through with the last ball of the opening over, when he had Ricardo Vasconcelos lbw for two.

It was 29 for two when Rob Newton edged Robinson to keeper for Ben Brown.

Aaron Thomason replaced Abi Sakande at 58 for two and against his first delivery, down the leg-side-side, Temba Bavuma got an inside edge to Brown.

At 76, Alex Wakely, on 36, was beaten by David Wiese and Laurie Evans took the catch at second slip.

There didn’t look much chance of a recovery when Rob Keogh was lbw to Robinson with just one run added to the lunch score.

And in Robinson’s next over Luke Procter edged and Luke Wells took an outstanding catch at third slip, moving his long arms very quickly to his left to take the chance two-handed.

Northants were 99 for six.but then captain Rossington and Zaib put on 51 for the seventh wicket and there was a last wicket stand of 68 between Buck and Sanderson before Robin,son and Abi Sakande finished off the innings.

Northants soon made an impact with the ball.

Varun Chopra, signed on loan from Essex to stiffen their top order batting, made just five and the returning Phil Salt a single, so despite the efforts of Robinson, Northants were still happy with their day.