Back in it! Sussex wrap up win over Gloucestershire to join promotion hunters
Sussex completed a comprehensive eight-wicket win over Gloucestershire on the final day at Bristol to boost their Division Two promotion hopes.
Philip Salt and Stiaan van Zyl staged an unbroken third-wicket stand of 41 as Sussex successfully chased down a modest victory target of 74 with 52 overs to spare to move to within 11 points of the promotion places with two games to play.
Any lingering hopes that Gloucestershire, who resumed on 197-6, might retrieve a parlous situation were dashed when their last four wickets yielded only 46 runs more as they were dismissed for 243 in their second innings. Chris Jordan and Delray Rawlins claimed two wickets apiece to prevent the tail wagging and raise the prospect of an inside-the-distance victory.
Sussex progress was not altogether smooth thereafter, Luke Wells hooking a short-pitched delivery from David Payne straight to Ben Charlesworth at deep backward square leg with 13 on the board.
Tom Haines followed him back to the pavilion soon after lunch, caught by James Bracey at second slip off the bowling of Matt Taylor for 10. But Salt calmed any nerves, playing the percentages in an assured innings of 30 not out from 54 balls, while van Zyl posted an identical score, providing post-lunch acceleration to hasten the end.
Sussex took 23 points to move up to fifth in the table, while Gloucestershire, who had to be content with four points, drop to third behind Northants, who improved their position by defeating Leicestershire at Grace Road.
There was a silver lining of sorts for the home side, who successfully wiped out a run rate of minus-four to at least avert the threat of being docked penalty points.
Gloucestershire's avowed intention to dig in and make Sussex work hard for victory on the final day lasted just four balls as Jack Taylor aimed a loose drive at a wide delivery from Jordan and was caught at the wicket in the very first over.
That error of judgment was compounded when Ryan Higgins departed in identical fashion, flashing hard at another wide delivery from Jordan and edging a catch behind as Gloucestershire effectively ran up the white flag of surrender.
Within the space of 12 balls and 15 minutes, Gloucestershire had contrived to hand Sussex the game on a plate, their last realistic prospect of setting a testing target having returned to the pavilion in high dudgeon.
It was left to the unheralded pair of Payne and Matt Taylor to serve up tail-end resistance in the form of an obdurate ninth-wicket stand of 38 in 13 overs. Frustrated in his attempts to bring about a swift conclusion, Sussex captain Ben Brown called upon five different bowlers in his quest for a breakthrough. Rawlins eventually came up trumps, locating Payne's outside edge to provide the lithe Jordan with an opportunity to take a fine one-handed slip catch low to his right.
He concluded the innings in his next over, clean bowling the swinging Shannon Gabriel and leaving Taylor high and dry on 28 not out.