Jack Carson caters for the crowd as Ben Sanderson bosses Sussex once more

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Young spinner shows vital all-round ability to withstand Northants onslaught

Northamptonshire 91 for 4 trail Sussex 175 (Carson 52, Sanderson 5-45) by 84 runs

The sight of fans at Hove for the first time in 20 months had done little to distract from a familiar story for Sussex when their top order succumbed to Ben Sanderson for the third time this month: they slid to 67 for 7 at lunch after opting to bat in the sunshine, and lost an eighth wicket two balls into the afternoon session. One returning punter put in his order at Greig’s Café during the interval by asking for “a cup of tea, please – and do you know anyone who can bat?”
As luck would have it, the catering staff managed to pull some strings. Jack Carson and Henry Crocombe, Sussex’s No. 9 and 10 with a combined age of 39, are part of the Covid generation whose first-class careers had been played entirely behind closed doors, with both making debuts in the Bob Willis Trophy last summer. Sussex’s members had turned up just to make sure they existed in the third dimension, rather than being hermetically sealed in the club’s online streaming service; a 99-run stand provided confirmation that they were indeed flesh and bones, and ensured a first-innings total that kept them in the game.

Crocombe, a tall right-arm seamer who removed Ben Curran with the new ball, played with a wristy flourish and was dropped twice as he chanced his arm, but it was Carson who looked like he had the potential to become a genuine allrounder. A 20-year-old offspinner from County Armagh, Carson first came to Sussex’s attention eight years ago when Kyle McCallan, the former Ireland international, rang Ed Joyce to recommend a young batter at Waringstown CC in Belfast, whom he insisted was “pretty special”.

“It’s pretty hazy, but I think I said to the club that there was a young kid who wanted to have a look at playing for them, though spin was his secondary thing,” Joyce, Sussex’s captain at the time, recalls. “I didn’t realise he was going to go over to England and go to school there but he’s clearly done really well.” Thanks to a sports scholarship at Hurstpierpoint College, Carson moved across the Irish Sea permanently for sixth form, and opportunities for the academy and the seconds were increasingly regular.

“We knew he could bowl a bit of offspin but he got his opportunity in the second team because he was scoring hundreds in the academy,” James Kirtley, the club’s T20 head coach and Ian Salisbury’s assistant in other formats, explains. “And since then, Sals has worked his magic – and Sals really is a wizard. It’s a wonderful partnership and double-act.”

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