Cricket: Middlesex in despair

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Sussex 392 Middlesex 142 and 90 Sussex win by inns and 160 runs

WHATEVER is wrong with Middlesex, there is certainly not much that is right at the moment. They were hopelessly outplayed and outclassed by Sussex as they succumbed to their heaviest defeat of the season, indeed their most crushing loss for more than a decade. Not even paceman James Hewitt's welcome return to form could compensate for such an abysmal performance.

If their first innings was dreadful, abject surrender does not begin to describe the way Middlesex capitulated in two hours second time around, failing to reach three figures in an innings for the first time this season, when they followed on 250 runs adrift of their opponents. The match was over two days and 15 overs ahead of schedule and leaves a troubled club, who have now not won for eight matches, in one almighty mess. Sussex, in contrast, have now completed their second successive Championship win by an innings and plenty.

Middlesex have problems off the field. If reports are to be believed, there is a clash of wills and ways between the senior professionals and the Australian coach John Buchanan. And it appears that the internecine warfare is having an undue influence on playing performance.

Faced with some hostile bowling, Middlesex were hustled out in 48 overs in their first innings with Jason Lewry's left-arm swing bowling accounting for five wickets -- his third such haul this summer. Sussex needed even fewer overs next time, 27.1 to be precise, as James Kirtley tore into them with a wicked spell of 4 for 10 in 21 balls. Lewry did his bit with three more wickets in seven deliveries for a match return of 8 for 63 and Robin Martin-Jenkins picked up a career-best 3 for 22. Only Mark Ramprakash, with a second-innings 36, and Keith Brown (21) provided any resistance. Ramprakash was bowled by Martin-Jenkins in both innings while Paul Weekes top-scored first time around and Tim Bloomfield made a career-best, unbeaten 20.

The Middlesex day of misery began with the failure of their attack to knock off the last three Sussex first-innings wickets. It took them 41 minutes to do so, in which time Sussex added just 21 to their score. Hewitt took all three to finish with a season's best 6 for 71. When Middlesex batted, their first four were back in the pavilion inside 41 minutes. That really said it all.