Goodwin century carries Sussex closer

Sussex 355-4 v Nottinghamshire

Given that the Championship pennant has yet to fly above a Sussex pavilion in the county's 113-year history, it is hardly surprising that the destination of the title has not been a regular topic of dressing-room conversation.

Nor is it this season ­ but only because the "c" word has been forbidden to cross the lips of any Sussex player, on account of the possibility that they might actually win it.

With leaders Surrey able to emerge with only a draw from their rain-affected match against Middlesex, Sussex have the chance to overturn the five-point deficit with which they began the current round of matches and go into Wednesday's crunch encounter with the Brown Hats at Hove not only in pole position but with a game in hand.

Towards that end, they made good progress after deciding to bat first at Trent Bridge, where Murray Goodwin at last discovered form to record an excellent 148 ­ his first century of the summer ­ and the loss of Friday's opening day to the weather looked like a handicap they could overcome against a Nottinghamshire side seemingly doomed to relegation.

The former Zimbabwe Test batsman passed three figures five times in the Championship last summer, but has succumbed to a run-drought this year, in common with much of Sussex's top order.

Only Tony Cottey has bucked that pattern. Continuing a remarkable run, the 37-year-old posted his ninth half-century in his last 10 innings yesterday to move to 916 runs for the season, although it was through Goodwin's pulls and cuts that Nottinghamshire's attack suffered most.

Robbed by injury and international duty of Greg Smith and Stuart MacGill, two of only three bowlers to take five wickets in an innings for the county this year, the home side were reliant on five seamers and an off-spinner with an aggregate of 31 wickets between them. Daniel Vettori is also injured, so it was little wonder they struggled.

Having hit 24 fours and two sixes, Goodwin played down the wrong line to lose his wicket to Gareth Clough on the stroke of tea. Chris Adams having perished in the previous over, Sussex were forced to regroup, but Michael Yardy and Robin Martin-Jenkins guided them through a rain-disrupted final hour to reach 355.

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