If Sussex's victory over Lancashire at Liverpool last July was, in the final analysis, effectively a title decider, this contest might determine which of these sides stays in the race. At the halfway point the champions of the last two years have their noses in front.
Yet Sussex may feel they should have taken the match further away from their opponents. They were 233 for 3 a quarter of an hour before tea, with a depth of batting still to come. All out for 316, therefore, looks like an underachievement.
Yet a last-wicket partnership of 40, stretching Sussex's lead to 110, could prove highly valuable, particularly if Mushtaq Ahmed takes full advantage of a dry pitch. Nonetheless his captain, Chris Adams, will count at least three wickets as give-aways.
That could not be said of Chris Nash, whose maiden first-class century could not have been more timely after a woeful run of form. It may no longer be practice, while a match is in progress, for centurions to mark the occasion by standing drinks in the pub, yet Nash should at least ask Carl Hopkinson's pleasure. Had it not been for his team-mate giving Mike Yardy a playful squeeze in a bar the other evening, inflicting a bizarre shoulder injury on the opener, Nash would have almost certainly been dropped.
As it was, he seized his reprieve as the opportunity, in his 42nd first-class match, to make his mark, applying himself diligently for more than four hours before driving leg-spinner Francois du Plessis through extra cover for the 13th of his 14 boundaries and waving his bat in the air in a celebration that was well deserved.
Nash blamelessly fell leg before to Steven Croft, trying to work the ball to leg, but it was what happened next that will have dismayed Adams. Matt Prior, typically aggressive, was on 73 and winning the battle with the slower bowlers when he loosely drove to backward point, giving Croft a second breakthrough in his next over. Hopkinson was then run out, needlessly, as Adams risked a single and, after the captain, thrusting his front pad down the track, had become Gary Keedy's 500th first-class victim, Ollie Rayner scooped the same bowler straight to mid-on.
But Lancashire can bemoan their sloppiness, too. At 277 for 9 Robin Martin-Jenkins was dropped on three by Glenn Chapple off Du Plessis, punishing the error by finishing unbeaten on 27. Martin-Jenkins established an advantage that looked better still when he then struck with the new ball to have Lou Vincent caught at first slip.Reuse content