Moeen Ali began his break from red-ball cricket as he sat out of Worcestershire’s game at Hove, as half-centuries by Stiaan van Zyl and Delray Rawlins helped Sussex recover to 150 for 5 on a rain-shortened first day.
Moeen told ESPNcricinfo he was “not ruling out playing Test cricket in the future” on the eve of T20 Finals Day after he missed out on a red-ball central contract, but was not involved at Hove, as Hamish Rutherford captained in his absence.
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In a dead rubber – that both sides might have expected to be a promotion shoot-out at the start of the season – Sussex had been 32 for 3 following an uncontested toss with openers Luke Wells and Tom Haines both dismissed for ducks.
But van Zyl and Rawlins led the recovery before both departed in an afternoon session cut short by bad light.
Rain arrived shortly afterwards and umpires Jerry Lloyds and Paul Baldwin abandoned play at 4pm with only 50.4 overs possible.
Worcestershire’s decision to bowl first was no surprise and they struck with the third ball when Wells, playing well away from his body, was caught behind off Ed Barnard.
After a short stoppage for a shower, Haines’ leading edge ended up in the hands of mid-off and Sussex were 32 for 3 when wicketkeeper Ben Cox took a superb catch diving in front of slip to remove Will Beer for seven and reward Barnard for a lively new-ball spell.
But gradually conditions eased and van Zyl and Rawlins began their rebuilding job. Rawlins reigned in his attacking instincts and took Sussex past 50 with successive boundaries down the ground off Charlie Morris, while van Zyl passed 50 for the sixth time this season off 91 balls with seven boundaries.
They had put on 94 for the fourth wicket when van Zyl was superbly caught diving forward at mid-on by Rutherford to give Charlie Morris his second wicket. He had faced 119 balls and hit eight fours.
Rawlins was struck on the shoulder by Morris and needed more treatment a few minutes later when he pulled a ball from Brett D’Oliveira into his midriff. Rawlins drove the next ball he faced from Adam Finch for his eighth boundary but then slashed outside off stump and Daryl Mitchell clung onto a sharp chance at second slip. It was the left-hander’s third half-century of the season but, like van Zyl, he was frustrated to get out when seemingly well set.
“It was nice to get some runs today and I was disappointed to get out when I did because Delray and I had put together a good partnership,” van Zyl said.
“From a personal point of view, it’s been an OK season, but extremely frustrating from a team point of view. We haven’t put together enough complete batting performances as a batting unit and hopefully the guys can go into their off-season, reflect on what they need to do and be better than we were this year.”
England under-19 batsman Tom Clark, who has been in Sussex’s system since he was 10 years old only had time to face one ball from Finch on his debut, a bumper which he only just evaded, before the teams came off.
Moeen isn’t the only big name not involved in a game where only pride is at stake. Sussex have rested both Phil Salt, who has been carrying a finger injury for much of the second half of the season, and Chris Jordan.