Cricket: Nash builds hope

Middlesex 602-7 dec Sussex 201 & 115 Middx won by inn & 286 runs
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The Independent Online
THERE was only one way this match was heading yesterday and come 2.15pm on the third afternoon, Sussex had headed off for "voluntary" nets here as Middlesex maintained their Championship challenge with a huge victory worth a maximum 24 points. All of which was enough to leave Warwickshire and Northamptonshire, battling it out at Edgbaston, looking anxiously over their shoulders.

Lying third in the table before the start of the present round of encounters and with a game in hand over the pair of pacemakers, Middlesex are on a threatening roll. This latest triumph completed a hat-trick of successes by an innings, and they have now won five of their last six matches, the sort of form that could see the title heading this way again.

As for poor Sussex, they seem a broken and second-rate side, the Championship tail-end Charlies shot down in just over 37 overs yesterday and lucky to make it into the second session. They have now lost half of around dozens of matches to complete an unhappy week during which Norman Gifford, their manager, resigned.

Gifford, the former England slow left-armer, appears to have jumped before he was pushed before three consecutive Championship defeats. "The performance of the first XI has, to say the least, been extremely disappointing," he said, "and ultimately I must accept the responsibility." At 55 and after seven seasons with the county in which the trophy cupboard has remained bare, he departed with "great sadness".

Such is the present climate that cricket is played in and, as Alan Caffyn, the Sussex chairman, said when Gifford announced his decision: "The pressures on the modern-day cricket manager from all quarters to produce results are very high." Not to mention the suffering captain. The last time Sussex visited Lord's in the Championship, Alan Wells won the toss and batted and they lost by an innings. This time, he put Middlesex in, saw them rattle up over 600 and again saw his side beaten out of sight.

What a summer this one is turning into for the seasiders. When they opened their campaign at Derby at the back end of April they conceded 600 and went down by an innings and 379 runs. Now this - Middlesex firmly in control, thanks to a double-century from the England discard Mark Ramprakash, besides a three-figure contribution from the captain, Mike Gatting.

Yesterday, meanwhile, the start of the Sussex second innings was almost a replica of their first. Dion Nash had started the slide on day two by capturing the wickets of Bill Athey and Keith Newell with his first four balls, and now the Kiwi seamer, sending down the second over of the morning, sent back Jamie Hall with his first delivery while Newell bagged a pair off the fifth.

From an overnight deficit of 388 and a position of 15 for two following Nash's celebrations, there was no escape. Nash also took out Franklyn Stephenson to return three for 37 to go with his three for 47 first time around, Paul Weekes, Richard Johnson and Phil Tufnell helping to wrap up business with time to spare.