Sussex County Cricket Club gave spectators free admission to the opening day of their LV= County Championship match against Worcestershire – and what a day they had.
They saw Sussex recover from 142-6 to reach 338-9 thanks to some late-order hitting from first Nathan McAndrew and then Jack Carson and Henry Shipley. The last two put on 85 for the ninth wicket, the biggest stand of the innings.
At tea, when Sussex were 205-7, honours looked appropriately even at the 1st Central County Ground for the second and third placed counties in Division Two.
And it was fitting that Sussex (second) were on top of Worcestershire (third) when bad light drove the players from the field with eight overs remaining.
The first, intense session brought some old-fashioned county cricket, with Sussex reaching lunch on 81-3 from 30 overs at a run-rate of 2.70.
Worcestershire had chosen to bowl on a humid, sticky morning and the green tinge to the pitch might also have influenced their choice. Whether they would have made the same choice had Chet Pujara and Steve Smith been batting for Sussex, as they were at Worcester last month, is another matter.
It was a very testing two hours and the Worcestershire fast bowlers made the batsmen play at almost every delivery.
The best of them, not for the first time, was the bald and bustling figure of Joe Leach, who bowled with thoughtful aggression, round the wicket and over, wide on the crease and close to the stumps.
He broke through with the last ball of the opening over, which Tom Clark edged to Jake Libby at fourth slip.
His fellow opener, Tom Haines, battled for just under an hour for his nine runs before he edged Leach to wicketkeeper Gareth Roderick and Sussex were 28-2 in the 14th.
Tom Alsop (left-handed Toms make up the first three in the Sussex line-up) battled as obdurately as Haines. But his innings of 71 minutes and 56 deliveries ended on 19.
He was on the receiving end of a delivery from Leach that straightened off the pitch for Jack Haynes to take the edge at second slip. That made it 47-3 in the 18th.
The Sussex batsmen looked a little more confident in the last few overs before the interval, after Leach had left the attack, and they carried that impetus into the afternoon session.
James Coles and Oli Carter struck a flurry of boundaries but then the impressive and fluent Coles fell to a soft dismissal, with an uppercut off Adam Finch to Leach at third man. Finch had just been warned for running on the pitch.
Then, one run later, Danial Ibrahim, edged to second slip for a seven-ball duck and Sussex were 120-5.
That became 142-6 when Fynn Hudson-Prentice edged to Roderick who dropped the catch but then caught it at the second attempt just before it hit the ground. There was a hesitation and a meeting of umpires before the batsman departed and Leach had his 17th five-wicket haul.
Carter and McAndrew decided to counter-attack their way out of trouble and this approach brought 59 runs in 14 overs before Carter slapped a short one from Matthew Waite to backward-point. But he had hit 11 fours in his 132-ball 76.
McAndrew went on to hit 65 from 68 balls, with a dozen fours. But it was the partnership that followed that won the day for Sussex, forcing Worcestershire to take the new ball without Adam Finch, who was taken out of the attack after running on the pitch.
Carson made an unbeaten 60 but the real bonus for Sussex was the effort from New Zealander Henry Shipley, making his first-class debut for the county.
Shipley was brought in to bolster the county’s fast bowling options but struck a fluent 41, with six fours and a six. He finally gave the heroic Leach his sixth wicket, making him the highest wicket-taker in the division.