Sussex had their bowlers to thank for an outstanding morning performance as they took control of their must-win LV= Insurance County Championship contest with Leicestershire on day two.
With Leicestershire having got on top by dismissing the hosts for 262 on day one, Sussex knew only an incisive bowling spell could wrestle back control in a game both teams need to win to stand any chance of promotion.
Thanks to excellent contributions from Karvelas, Unadkat and Fynn Hudson-Prentice, the hosts did just that at Hove, before putting distance between themselves and their visitors in the afternoon.
The day got off to an electric start when with just the 10th ball, Unadkat got one to nip into Colin Ackermann, dislodging his middle stump.
Leicestershire’s South African, who has averaged over 45 with the bat this season, was a key dismissal to expose a middle-order without overseas players Peter Handscomb or Wiaan Mulder. As it turned out, it sparked a calamitous collapse too.
The slide started with Umar Amin, whose pulsating form in the Nottinghamshire Premier League saw him picked up for the last four County Championship games. The former Pakistan international was out for just two to Unadkat, caught behind by Oli Carter.
Unbelievably, Rehan Ahmed followed just five balls later, with the England youngster out for a duck after prodding at a Karvelas delivery and finding the gloves of Carter. After that spell of aggressive bowling on a lively wicket, the scoreboard read 76-5.
The collapse was not done there, though, with wicketkeeper Ben Cox following as he was done like a kipper by Karvelas, leaving a ball that clipped his bails and having to depart for a two-ball duck.
Amidst it all, Rishi Patel was continuing doggedly for his side, continuing the form that saw him reach 1,000 Championship runs for the season on day one.
He and Tom Scriven had to turn to their defence to see out the electric spells of Karvelas and Unadkat, and survive they did after eleven overs that saw four wickets fall for just 13 runs.
Although the visitors stabilised, the calm was only temporary before Hudson-Prentice tempted Scriven into an edge through to Carter, dismissing the all-rounder for a hard-fought 12 from 27 balls.
Chris Wright, who will join up with Sussex for next season, then shaped up poorly to a Hudson-Prentice inswinger and was clean bowled for a two-ball duck, with another mini-collapse for Leicestershire leaving them 93-8.
With Leicestershire then looking likely to avoid the follow-on as Patel formed a decent stand with Scott Currie, it required Sussex to engage alternative plans.
Back came Karvelas, who with his first ball tempted Patel into a high heave to long off, where Pujara made a fantastic catch over his shoulder to dismiss the opener for 48 from 120 balls.
With five runs still needed to ensure they put Sussex in again, Leicestershire’s tail was swept up too, with Unadkat returning to force Matt Salisbury into a hopeful shot to midwicket, where Haines took the catch.
Leicestershire were 108 all out, and Pujara and Sussex had a decision to make. Bat on was the call from Sussex’s skipper, and the two Toms – Haines and Clark – came out to see through a short spell before lunch.
The task was to extend a lead of 154 runs to however much could be mustered, and things began well as Haines cracked a lovely cover drive for four before the interval. Haines and Clark batted well after Lunch too, but when the former miscued a half-volley from Wright to Lewis Hill at cover, Sussex’s good start was cut short.
The Sussex opener was out for 34 from 35 balls, and despite providing some momentum, it was another waste of a solid opening partnership for the hosts. In came Tom Alsop, who had been in disappointing recent form with the bat, and down went the strike rate.
Alsop and Clark batted sensibly to extend the lead, and in doing so made Sussex’s second-highest second-wicket stand all season.
It came to an end on 60, however, as Rehan Ahmed spun a beautiful web to beat Alsop’s defences and bowl him on 31. Clark persevered, trusting the obdurate style that had been in vogue since Lunch, and profited by making his fifth First-Class 50 of the season, and fourth in as many matches, off 115 balls.
While many would have been willing Clark to double up and make his first century of the season, the immediate focus was more on increasing the lead.
As Pujara smashed a six over deep midwicket and Clark struck a water bottle stood on the boundary’s edge with a laser-like four, Sussex were steaming on with their task against the young and old of Championship bowling – Ahmed and Wright.
On 69, Clark was visibly frustrated to be given out LBW to Ahmed, ending a fine innings. With replays suggesting the delivery was slipping down the leg side, Clark’s annoyance will probably only grow.
So too will Pujara’s, as the Indian batsman failed to live up to his usual superhuman standards by playing a fraction too late and edging Tom Scriven behind for 23.
James Coles and Oli Carter played with their usual rambunctious freedom after the top four had fallen, carrying the lead beyond 350 as the light began to recede around Hove.
Though they were tireless, the Leicestershire attack were making few inroads and became rather predictable, with Ahmed’s unbroken 16-over spell from the Cromwell Road End beginning to leak runs.
There remained time for Carter to be stumped by Cox, fending carelessly at a wider delivery from Scriven to fall for 16, but Sussex soon resumed with their victory push.
Hudson-Prentice joined Coles to bat out the final eight overs, with survival for the morning the priority as they felt the pressure of the Leicestershire fielders. As both batsmen survived to see Sussex through to 234-5, ahead by 388 runs, there was no doubting who was the happier side.
Sussex had produced one of their best days of the season, and not a minute too late. Speaking after the match, bowler Unadkat praised a high-quality Sussex performance.
“I would say it’s 10 out of 10 for us,” said Unadkat. “I think the first session belonged to us because of how we started with the ball, and the guys followed it up with a great effort with the bat as well, so we’re on top of the game.
“The job is only half done, so hopefully in the third and fourth days we’re going to be on top as well.”
With his figures of 3-23 being key in tandem with Ari Karvelas’ 4-14, Unadkat was keen to impress how important it was for Sussex’s teamwork to shine.
“We spoke about it in our huddle in the morning, bowling in partnerships. It’s not a wicket where you can run through the opposition without being patient and disciplined,” he said.
“There are no great demons in the wicket, as it turned out to be pretty flat after the first session and was getting slower as well. It’s still a job half done, we’re still going to have to be patient and disciplined, and it’s going to be a good contest.”