Hampshire 347 Sussex 30-0: Warne lurks as Pothas hits hundred to defy Sussex

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The Independent Online

Nic Pothas has some quirky habits at the crease - brushing his bat between his legs, touching the popping and return creases and other superstitions - but his most endearing in Hampshire eyes is the one of sticking around when the going toughens.

The times he has toughed it out and dragged Hampshire out of the mire and back into matches, are legion. This, his 12th hundred for Hampshire and 19th in all, could well be his most important.

Hampshire arrived here in fourth place, 22 points behind Sussex, the First Division joint leaders. By the close yesterday, their title challenge had been resuscitated and that despite stumbling to 117 for 5 in the morning session after their captain, Shane Warne, fresh from the Australian boot camp, had won the toss - only his third successful call of the season - and elected to bat on a good pitch that had decent bounce.

The chances are Warne's mind was not so much on the first-day pitch as on the fourth, when he could be wheeling in for much of it, just as Sussex's leg-spinner Mushtaq Ahmed did yesterday, sending down 28 overs unchanged between noon and tea from the Cromwell Road End.

The first couple of hours saw Sussex take charge, although a belligerent, 41-ball innings from Chris Benham which contained 14 fours (the same number Pothas hit to reach three figures), did ensure that the home team did not have things all their own way. And, after lunch, Pothas, a South African with a Greek passport, wrested the initiative from Sussex with a little help first from Sean Ervine, then, more tellingly, with his captain.

Pothas and Warne came together in the 51st over and proceeded to forge an impressive 117-run partnership for the eighth wicket.

The pair are no strangers to rescue acts; they put on 113 to take Hampshire to within sight of victory against Middlesex at Lord's early last month.

This latest effort occupied some 27 overs. It was not without incident, Pothas being dropped on 46 by Carl Hopkinson at point, but it did the trick.

Pothas reached his second century against Sussex off 179 balls. By then, though, Sussex had achieved what Middlesex and Kent had failed to do, dismiss him. Warne had been unbeaten in his three previous innings. But he did notch up his second fifty in successive Championship innings.

Pothas hung in there, finishing unbeaten for the third successive innings in the Championship, two of those scores being hundreds - this one his highest score of the season after an obdurate stay spanning four hours and 20 minutes.