Sussex are more familiar than most counties with the challenges thrown up by playing Lancashire at Liverpool. In 2006 they lost by six wickets inside two days here – the following summer they won by 108 runs in three days.
Last April, over a warm shirt-sleeved four days much less characteristic of April than yesterday, they lost by an innings and 55 runs as Lancashire launched what was to evolve as an historic season.
At this time of year, of course, winning the toss is crucial and there will not have been a moment's hesitation in Michael Yardy's decision to bowl. By mid-afternoon, the Sussex dressing room was measurably the happier one after the champions had been bowled out for 124 in 52.4 overs.
Another short stay by the Mersey looked in prospect when the first three Sussex wickets fell for 15 but Yardy's unbeaten 70 in the closing session made it a good day for the Sussex captain, whose fourth-wicket stand with Ed Joyce, unbroken at 122, has created a platform from which they should establish a big first-innings lead.
After overnight rain – the ground across the city from Aintree was officially good to soft – it was no real surprise that a green-tinged pitch offered plenty of bite for the seamers. No one did so more effectively than James Anyon, a Lancastrian who played club cricket in Preston and made an appearance for the Lancashire Cricket Board in 2001 but had to move to Warwickshire to secure a county contract.
Anyon's five wickets overshadowed the two taken by the Australian Steve Magoffin on his Sussex debut and he was well deserving of his success, even though Lancashire were cursing themselves for giving too many wickets away.
Having squared up Paul Horton with the ball he edged to wide fourth slip, Anyon had the South African Ashwell Prince caught behind with one that found some extra bounce, then brought one back off the pitch to trap Karl Brown leg before. Glen Chapple – in his first match as one of Wisden's five cricketers of the year for 2011 – helped Steven Croft add 41 for the seventh wicket before he pushed at a delivery that held up a little and was caught by the bowler. Kyle Hogg, top-edging a pull, donated his wicket to be last man out.
Croft's half-century was the stand-out innings. Yet after he had held things together – just – over 95 balls in which his only real extravagance was to loft Monty Panesar over mid-wicket for six, the loose drive outside off stump which brought his downfall was a little disappointing.
The Sussex reply began as though it might be as short-lived as Lancashire's. Chris Nash was caught at cover going after a wide-ish ball, Chapple trapped Luke Wells in the crease with a full, swinging ball and Saj Mahmood struck with his seventh delivery as Murray Goodwin, on the back foot to defend, was bowled off an inside edge.
But Yardy took confidence from three boundaries in Mahmood's next over and batted with an impressive diligence thereafter that Joyce largely matched.Reuse content