Australia’s first competitive game since their world came crashing down in South Africa brought a 57-run victory over Sussex and some good-natured jibes — but nothing like the vitriol cheerfully predicted by coach Justin Langer.
Hove was as genteel a venue as the tourists could have hoped for as they set about trying to convince everyone that their days of behaving like brats are over.
But even here, the ball-tampering scandal that brought down Steve Smith, David Warner, Cameron Bancroft and Langer’s predecessor Darren Lehmann was not entirely forgotten.
Marcus Stoinis hit 110 off just 112 balls as Australia scored 277-9 against Sussex on Thursday
One local watching them in the nets shouted: ‘Can I check your pockets?’ Another walked around ostentatiously wearing a tool belt. Late on, a beery contingent sang: ‘If you all like sand-paper, clap your hands.’
From a crowd of almost 6,000, though, it was tame fare, and far more spectators were interested in grabbing autographs from the Australians than abusing them.
In any case, of the players involved in that fateful Test in Cape Town, only Tim Paine, now the captain, took the field here — not that such details are likely to trouble England’s more vocal fans over the next three weeks.
Sussex looked in control at 130-2 but Ashton Agar’s 3-64 sparked a collapse to 220 all out
And, on this evidence, Australia will have to up their game to trouble England’s cricketers. Opener Aaron Finch made 78 before he fell to Jofra Archer, while Marcus Stoinis, replacing the suspended Smith at No 3, hit a solid 110.
But from 167 for one in the 31st over, Australia struggled against the left-arm spin of Danny Briggs and the occasional leg-breaks of Luke Wells, who held a return catch to dismiss Paine for two. England’s one-day spinners Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid could be busy men during the five-match series.
D’Arcy Short then dropped Sussex opener Phil Salt twice before he had scored.
Marcus Stoinis of Australia celebrates taking the wicket of Michael Burgess of Sussex
Salt responded with a 33-ball half-century, and at 180 for four in the 34th over — after another bad drop, this time by Andrew Tye — Sussex were on course.
Instead, they lost their nerve, as left-arm spinner Ashton Agar held his. There was no obvious sledging, but then none was really needed.
Meanwhile, England’s preparation for Wednesday’s series opener at The Oval was not helped by Yorkshire’s decision to leave Liam Plunkett out of their Royal London Cup game against Northamptonshire at Headingley.
Plunkett, the leading one-day wicket-taker among England seamers since the start of 2017, conceded 76 off eight overs during the Roses match against Lancashire on Tuesday.