Luke Wright rewrote the Sussex List-A record books to lead his side to a crushing 122-run win over Middlesex in their Royal London One-Day Cup South Group Clash at Lord’s.
The veteran opener showed maturity mixed with belligerence to hit 166, so eclipsing Chris Adam’s 163 against the same opponents at Arundel back in the early noughties.
It meant Sussex totalled 298 all out in a game reduced to 48 overs a-side by early morning rain – a total Middlesex were never likely to challenge.
Wright said afterwards: "I think the timing just clicked for me. I’d spoken to Browny (Ben Brown) about getting to the latter stages of the innings to where I felt I could really go.
"Once we were five down early it was up to me to get to around 40 overs and then see where we could get to from that point. I felt at the back end we would be able to catch up so it was about being there to have the chance to. Obviously, I wasn’t expecting to go quite that well but it got us above par on a tough wicket.
"Everyone wants to be back here for the final in a few weeks’ time. But we are playing a lot of young lads and it is just great to see the improvement in a competition we have really struggled in over the years."
Wright’s heroics were all the more commendable as the visitors had been 6-2, 30-3 and 101-5 in the face of a magnificent opening spell from Middlesex warhorse Tim Murtagh (3-24).
Ben Brown (55) proved a staunch ally, the pair sharing a stand of 175 in under 22 overs to swing the game decisively in the south coast county’s favour.
Such a scenario seemed unlikely when Murtagh got Middlesex off to the perfect start. Just five balls in the Ireland international had Phil Salt brilliantly caught on the deep-square leg boundary by Nathan Sowter without a run on the board. In his next over Murtagh repeated the trick when Stiaan Van Zyl played too soon at a ball just back of a length, George Scott holding a stunning catch in the shadow of the Tavern stand.
And when Harry Finch chipped one into the hands of Tom Helm at mid-on, Murtagh had 3-9 from six overs.
Laurie Evans stayed while 49 were added, but when he and David Weise fell in Sowter’s first spell, Sussex were 101-5, the revival apparently snuffed out. Wright though had stood firm and in Brown, the scourge of Middlesex many times in the past, he found a perfect foil.
The pair built steadily at first, Wright moving to 50 before getting a life on 63, John Simpson failing to cling on to an inside edge off the excellent Murtagh. The hosts were to rue the miss as Wright cut loose against a home attack which increasingly lost the plot.
He hit 16 in three balls to reach a brilliant hundred, and went on to score his last 81 runs in 26 balls as Toby Roland-Jones and Helm in particular were savaged. Helm went for three successive sixes before Wright finally hit him to Sowter on the mid-wicket fence.
Two late wickets for Sowter (4-48) meant the leg-spinner had taken four wickets or more for the third time in the competition this year, but Sussex’s total looked formidable.
Paul Stirling and Malan made their customary quick start in reply, but the former soon edged behind off Weise and Max Holden too missed out. Home hopes were pinned on Malan and New Zealander Ross Taylor, but the latter was bowled through the gate, giving Danny Briggs (2-11) his second wicket in as many overs.
Malan was starved of strike before nicking behind off the speedy George Garton (2-35), who then castled top-scorer Stevie Eskinazi (42). Mir Hamza (3-43) then ran through the tail as Sussex leapfrogged Middlesex in the table.