By David Williams
Marnus Labuschagne signed off from Glamorgan by helping them pile up an epic, history-making score before revealing he could well return to the county next season.
The Australian batsman struck 138 – one of three second innings centurions – as Glamorgan battled back for a famous draw at Sussex with a vast total of 737.
It was the highest second-innings score made in England, and the second highest total ever made by the county – to save their LV= Insurance County Championship Division Two match.
Labuschagne is now joining up with Australia ahead of the Ashess series and it’s likely his countryman Michael Neser – who hit 123 – will join him.
Asked is he plans to return to Glamorgan next season, the No.1-rated batsman in the world said: “I love the people I’m playing with and that’s what keeps me coming back to the county.
“I don’t want to say any definites, but I love coming back here, my family love it so it’s the county I’ve always played for and I’d like to keep it that way.”
Glamorgan turned a first-innings deficit of 358 into a lead of 379 against a weakened Sussex side, with Neser becoming the third century-maker of the innings, following Labuschagne and Kiran Carlson.
By the time the players finally shook hands, the match had been dead for quite some time. Both teams remain unbeaten after six matches.
Glamorgan acting captain Carlson said: “It was nice to get some runs and come away with a draw which was a good result for us after day one.
“I left a few out there but it was good to spend more time out there and get another hundred. I’m batting nicely though I struggled for rhythm a bit in the middle (of the block of games) but I’m happy with how I’m going about it.
“It was just going step by step, taking each half an hour at a time and we’ve managed to get across the line. ‘Ness’ and the bowlers batted really well and got us there in the end.
“We wanted to get to a stage where we were safe. On another day with different circumstance we could have pushed for a declaration but our bowlers are pretty knackered and to ask them to give it their all again on a flat wicket would have been a bit much.”
Michael Neser hits a six off Steve Smith to secure his first century for Glamorgan!#LVCountyChamp pic.twitter.com/egWOwWvQBQ
— LV= Insurance County Championship (@CountyChamp) May 21, 2023
Sussex’s Australian Steve Smith said: “It’s been good fun (playing for Sussex), in the three games we got ourselves in winning positions in all of them but just weren’t able to get over the line.
“A few of the games have been affected by rain, but we haven’t been able to nail it.
“I’ve really enjoyed my time, a great bunch of guys, bright players with good futures.
“I would have preferred to see Marnus getting out, but he played nicely, his game’s in good order so hopefully he’s got a successful summer ahead.”
At the start of play on day four, the game was finely balanced, with Glamorgan – on 499 for 5 – leading by 141, with captain Carlson 187 not out and Chris Cooke unbeaten on 12.
Carlson achieved his career best when he reached 192, but he did not add to it. In the seventh over of the morning he drove at Ari Karvelas and gave the bowler a simple return catch.
In a deeply impressive innings – despite giving tough chances on 3 and 21 – Carlson had faced 278 balls and hit 18 fours and two sixes as he reshaped the match.
That made it 510 for 6. Sussex, though, bowled too many four balls to maintain the pressure on Glamorgan’s lower order.
In mitigation, they were handicapped by the absence of the injured Ollie Robinson, who was seen on the ground on crutches and wearing a protective boot prior to the scan on his sore left ankle on Monday.
The pitch also remained in good condition, even though the occasional delivery kept low.
Bizarrely, Sussex didn’t take the new ball when it was available just before lunch, preferring to toss the old ball to the part-time leg-spinner Smith.
BREAKING: England fast bowler Ollie Robinson will have a scan on Monday after failing to take the field after lunch for Sussex against Glamorgan due to a sore ankle. pic.twitter.com/Aiv9xv3Vxp
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) May 20, 2023
Then, another part-time spinner, James Coles, was given the new ball.
At lunch Glamorgan were 603 for 7 after 163 overs, a lead of 245, and the game already had the whiff of a draw about it.
Sussex were being led by their vice-captain Tom Alsop, with captain Cheteshwar Pujara off the field with a stiff neck.
Their interest in winning the match received another boost at 573 when they took the seventh Glamorgan wicket. Chris Cooke received a leg-stump half-volley from Tom Haines, which he thrashed straight into the hands of Ali Orr at midwicket.
Shortly afterwards, Glamorgan reached their highest second-innings score, beating the 577 for 4 they made against Gloucestershire at Newport in 1939, a match in which Wally Hammond made 302.
Glamorgan lost their eighth wicket at 623 when Timm van der Gugten, hooking at a short delivery from the impressive Karvelas, edged to Oli Carter behind the stumps. But there was still more pain for the nine Sussex bowlers.
Allrounder Neser, vying for a place in Australia’s Test team, scored his first century in Glamorgan colours, and reached three figures when he smashed a delivery from his compatriot Smith out of the ground for six.
Sussex finally took the ninth wicket when James Harris pulled a long hop from Smith to deep midwicket where substitute fielder Sean Hunt took a fine catch, jumping up to palm the ball in the air, going over the rope but then stepping back inside it to complete the grab.
Last man Jamie McIlroy had time to complete a career best 11 not out.
A late tea was taken with Glamorgan 730 for 9 and, finally, Smith ended the innings when he bowled Neser for 123. The teams re-emerged for a single over before calling time.
Steve Smith claims the wicket of his fellow Australian Michael Neser. ☝ pic.twitter.com/6ZbgZTBh1e
— Sussex Cricket (@SussexCCC) May 21, 2023