A CLUB-record fourth-innings total was required if Northamptonshire were to deny resurgent Sussex the victory that would keep them in touch with the leaders. Not surprisingly, it was a task beyond them as Sussex eventually registered their first victory at Northampton since 1977.
The target, always a daunting one, receded further when they lost three quick wickets, including that of their captain, Allan Lamb, in debatable circumstances. Lamb was clearly caught at first slip by the Northampton born-and-bred Ian Salisbury, but stood his ground believing that he had heard no- ball called. Whatever was called by whom, it was not the work of the umpire, Ken Palmer, and Lamb departed reluctantly.
Both Sussex's partners in a substantial overnight stand, Martin Speight and Alan Wells, were run out by accurate throws, the former by a particularly inspired piece of work by Tony Penberthy. The Cornishman also contributed with his bowling, claiming two wickets as a succession of batsmen fell without forcing the pace.
The exception, predictably, was Franklyn Stephenson, who bludgeoned his second half-century of the match. He was brutal in his treatment of some erratic leg-spin from Andy Roberts, putting a six on to the roof of the soon-to-be-redundant football terracing. Roberts bought his wicket when he had Stephenson caught on the long-on boundary and his next ball ended the innings when Ed Giddins also fell.
The scale of Northamptonshire's task was underlined when Stephenson extracted more pace and bounce from the wicket than any of the home bowlers, even the formidable Curtly Ambrose.
The Northamptonshire openers survived that spell but Russell Warren was trapped by Giddins. A good burst of bowling from Paul Jarvis yielded Rob Bailey's wicket as well as the controversial Lamb dismissal, but Richard Montgomerie and Mal Loye settled in for a productive stand, intent on taking the struggle into a final day.
Loye, Montgomerie and Curran fell to Giddins and when Salisbury captured the wicket of Penberthy the inevitable approached. Stephenson finished the match without recourse to the extra half-hour.