Cricket: Di Venuto leads home charge

Sussex v Kent
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WHEN DRIZZLE swept in from the West just after lunch yesterday it was a cruel interruption indeed. The match could not have been more in the balance since both sides managed 336 in their first knocks and Sussex had just set about establishing a Saturday target.

With so many county grounds likely to be deserted today, at least at Hove the crowd had a natural four-day finale in prospect, for this has been a game in which give and take have been grudging, and advantage hard to come by.

Luckily just 90 minutes were lost, absorbing the tea interval, and a taut contest could resume. In the morning Kent, in the hands of Mark Ealham and Min Patel, had ground their way cautiously towards parity, having been eight down and vulnerable overnight. Ealham's 74 took him 212 balls and he needed two lives to get there, confirming that serious work has been required on a slow wicket.

For Sussex, the left-hander Umer Rashid has continued to cement a place in the side. Signed from Middlesex principally as a slow bowler he has progressed steadily up the batting order this season from the lowest rung to No 7, where he contributed 38 runs to the first innings.

By being able to regard Rashid as a newborn all-rounder, Sussex have increased their bowling options, while their Australian batsman Mike Di Venuto has now judged the temper of English wickets, and made his second Championship century in this game.

In yesterday's late afternoon haze, it was Di Venuto who once more took charge of the home side's attempt to establish advantage.

Kent, meanwhile, are performing below the sum of their parts, having won only three times in all forms of cricket this year.

In the third season of his contract the coach John Wright has yet to stitch those parts together, and it could be that in the autumn he will go home to take charge of the New Zealand side.

Meanwhile both teams, lying either side of mid-table, know that this match is waiting to be won, and a gritty day is in prospect.