Yorkshire kept at bay by unbroken 92-run stand between skipper and teenage debutant
“I thought he was fantastic and I’m so thrilled for him,” said Brown of a cricketer nearly half his own age. “I said to him walking off, ‘I got nought on debut, I was in and out and didn’t make an impact’. To go in against the second new ball and that bowling attack and get the score he did, I’m delighted. I feel old enough because I’ve played a lot of club cricket against his dad, Kash, who was here today. These are the days we’ve missed so much through Covid: a debutant gets runs against a good attack in front of a big crowd and his own parents.”
The sight of Brown and Ibrahim adding an unbroken 92 for the sixth wicket was all the more delightful because such riches did not appear within Sussex’s grasp during a morning session in which the visitors did reasonably well to reach lunch on 63 for 3. Asked to bat on the sort of cloudy Leeds morning when bowlers cause havoc and a game’s shape can be decided in a session, the visiting batters had to scrap for every run.
Tom Haines, who at 22 is almost a senior player at Sussex these days, has just been awarded a new contract at Hove but he had added only a couple of runs to the 622 he had scored in the Championship this season when he was defeated by David Willey’s extra bounce with the new ball and nicked a catch to Harry Brook at third slip. As though exacting retribution Stiaan van Zyl smacked Willey through the covers for a couple of fours but then fell to a fine ball from Jordan Thompson, who is rapidly becoming one of the first names on Andrew Gale’s team sheet.
And so we waited for Sussex to crumble away like the fresh Wensleydale many good Yorkshiremen enjoy with their Christmas cake. The crowd waited expectantly on what for many of them was a day that had long been ringed on their calendar. Yet they waited in vain…
Aaron Thomason and Brown were not parted until six overs after tea, by which time they had put on 107 for the fifth wicket. If their stand did not take their side to genial affluence, it at least ensured basic subsistence, even on a good batting wicket, and Thomason deserves a sizeable share of the credit. The former Warwickshire cricketer was pressed into service as an opener at the start of the season when Phil Salt was knocked off his bike and had not made more than 21 in any of his last nine innings before being dropped down to No4 for this game. His 40 runs in 231 minutes therefore represented a substantial effort of concentration if nothing else and his disappointment when he chipped a slower ball from Thompson to Dawid Malan at midwicket was very plain.
And then the crowd waited again. But as if to confound them at once Ibrahim scored his first runs in big school when he tucked Willey behind square for a couple. Brown reached the 19th century of his career with a leg glance off Thompson and received a hug from the young lad against whose father he had played. And our day ended not with the to-and-fro departure and arrival of many Sussex batters but with the serenity of two cricketers at utterly different stages of their careers yet who understood precisely what each was about.
Brown of Sussex? Yes, absolutely. But Ibrahim of Sussex? It is surely too early for such fancies. But such evenings as this make one hope it might be so.
Paul Edwards is a freelance cricket writer. He has written for the Times, ESPNcricinfo, Wisden, Southport Visiter and other publications