Carl Hopkinson frustrates Australia's bid for a confidence-boosting victory with a superb century in the Ashes tour opener at Sussex.
Australia forced to settle for draw
Sussex's Carl Hopkinson frustrated Australia's bid for a confidence-boosting victory with a superb century as the Ashes tour opener at Hove ended in a draw. The 27-year-old, whose only first-class hundred came last year, has not played a Championship game for the county this season but he grabbed his opportunity after making two second-team centuries in impressive style as Sussex made a decent fist of chasing 418 from 92 overs on the final day. Hopkinson eventually fell to Ben Hilfenhaus for 115 ? the only hundred of the game ? when Australia took the new ball but Sussex refused to give up the chase until Hilfenhaus yorked Robin Martin-Jenkins with six overs to go and they closed on 373 for seven. Sussex had been given a positive start by the openers Mike Yardy and Chris Nash who put on 87 in 24 overs. Yardy raced to his 50 off just 55 balls with 10 boundaries and Nash was just starting to accelerate when he sliced a drive to backward point off Peter Siddle. The 24-year-old from Victoria was again the pick of the Australia seamers but on a dry, turning pitch it was always going to be the spinners who would do the bulk of the bowling. By lunch skipper Ricky Ponting was employing both his off-spinners Nathan Hauritz and Marcus North and although Hauritz, the only specialist slow bowler in the squad, offered more control than he had in the first innings it was part-timer North who made the second breakthrough. Yardy had slowed up considerably after reaching 50, his next 17 runs coming from 60 balls with just one more boundary. North got one to spin out of the rough outside the left-hander's off stump as he pushed forward and Michael Clarke took a smart catch at slip. Ed Joyce, the last England player to score a hundred against the Australians in a one-day international in Sydney in 2007, seemed to be setting himself up for a long innings as he added 56 in 20 overs with Hopkinson. But in a mirror image of Yardy's dismissal, the left-hander gave North a second wicket in the 50th over as he pushed forward. By then Ponting had turned to Brett Lee and although Australia's most experienced paceman again struggled with overstepping he did remove Rory Hamilton-Brown for the second time in the match, leg before with a delivery which shaped back in and would probably have hit off stump. Hopkinson reached his half-century with his third six off North, all of them struck between mid-on and midwicket and including two in four deliveries while Luke Wright was his usual aggressive self, striking three boundaries off Lee. Sussex began the final session needing 181 but Hopkinson and Wright continued to attack in a stand of 81 in 13 overs, a new fifth-wicket Sussex record in this fixture beating the 72 put on by Tony Greig and Peter Kirsten in 1975. Hauritz's miserable match continued when Ponting dropped a straightforward catch at midwicket to reprieve Hopkinson on 69 but he finally took his first wicket in the next over when Wright unluckily deflected a ball he was trying to glance down leg side off his glove and onto leg stump. Hopkinson pressed on and reached his hundred by coming down the pitch to drive North through the leg side for his 12th four. He was eventually caught behind trying to run a ball from Hilfenhaus down to third man, having faced 138 balls in just under three hours with 14 fours and three sixes.
* PA Sport