Steve Harmison's hopes of making a belated impact on the Ashes suffered a setback at the Riverside yesterday as his Durham team-mates were making unflustered progress towards a second successive County Championship title.
The 30-year-old could only bowl six overs in two expensive spells when Sussex followed on 228 runs behind because of a badly blistered big toe.
He picked up the last wicket to fall in Sussex's first innings, spent the next three hours grazing at long leg and after returning to bowl three more overs went off again for further treatment. It does not look like a problem which will prevent Harmison from joining up with England tomorrow ahead of the fourth Test which starts on Friday, but will be a concern nonetheless because Headingley is the venue where he is most likely to play against Australia.
With Harmison hors de combat it was left to Australian-born Callum Thorp to lead the champions' charge towards their sixth win. The 24-year-old from Perth, who is English-qualified because his parents were born here, took a season's best 5 for 86 as Sussex subsided from 131 for one to lose seven wickets for 86 in the morning session, three of them to Thorp.
Operating exclusively from the Lumley Castle end, he got the ball to swing by the simple virtue of pitching it up before returning after lunch to complete the sixth five-for of his career when he ended a ninth-wicket stand of 40 between Ollie Rayner and Corey Collymore. Rayner probably felt he owed his side a few runs after running out Mike Yardy in the last over before lunch when his skipper was three short of a hundred. Yardy was called through for a single after playing the ball behind him and was unable to beat Dale Benkenstein's direct hit despite a dive. The next highest score was Ed Joyce's 36 and he only added four runs after retiring hurt late on the second day when Harmison hit him on the elbow.
Thorp's two wickets in successive overs when Sussex followed on were even more important. The pitch seemed to have lost its venom but Chris Nash drove badly at a wide delivery again pitched up and then Murray Goodwin inside-edged a vicious break-back. Luke Wright counter-attacked intelligently to score his second half-century of the season and ensure the game went into a fourth day.
Sussex have been outstanding in one-day cricket but their struggles in the Championship in the post-Mushtaq era are not surprising. Their bowling looked toothless and Yardy apart they have lacked consistency with the bat. They have the Twenty20 finals to look forward to on 15 August and lost the Friends Provident Trophy final last week but Kent did the same last year and ended up losing their First Division status. Sussex will need to show a lot more gumption if they are to avoid a similar fate.