County Championship round-up: Botha leaves Sussex staring down the barrel

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The Independent Online

Sussex may be licking their lips at the prospect of chasing the £1.5 million jackpot on offer to the winners of next month's Twenty20 Champions League, but their steep decline in the four-day game has left them at grave risk of relegation only two years after winning back-to-back titles.

Michael Yardy's team slumped to a crushing defeat against Warwickshire at Hove yesterday, leaving them next to bottom of the Division One table with only two matches left. Next week, at the same venue, they take on third-bottom Yorkshire, whom they trail by four points, in a match that could condemn them to go down with Worcestershire.

Beginning the day only 61 runs behind with seven wickets standing, Sussex succumbed to Warwickshire's less than potent attack. The combination of Ant Botha, the South African left-arm spinner, and Boyd Rankin proved too much for Sussex, who lost their last seven wickets for 39 runs in 12 overs.

Somerset, in contention for second place, were frustrated by Lancashire's Mal Loye and VVS Laxman at Taunton, where the visitors, 87 for two overnight, negotiated the final day without further loss as Loye posted his second century of the season and Laxman his third.

Despite the efforts of their former batsman Neil Dexter, who scored a century in each innings, Kent made virtually certain of an instant return to Division One by beating Middlesex by 10 wickets at Uxbridge, while second-placed Northamptonshire had to settle for a draw at Surrey.