Law in control as Mushtaq's trickery is foiled

Lancashire 368-5 v Sussex
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The Independent Online

Stuart Law leaned into a minted cover-drive, as Mushtaq Ahmed pitched just a little too wide and a little too full, the ball left the fielders flat-footed and the Queenslander completed his seventh century of this summer against Sussex here yesterday. It was also Lancashire's 28th hundred of 2003, equalling the number reached by the Red Rose's last outright county champions, in 1934.

Mal Loye became the fourth Lancashire batsman to pass 1,000 runs as the third-wicket stand, unbroken on 159 overnight, marched towards maximum batting bonus points at the expense of a team still needing 10 points to confirm their first Championship. As the score passed 300, a band of fans struck up a defiant "Sussex by the Sea" but the song was born more of hope than expectation.

In fact their supplication was answered seven runs later when Loye (on 144) tried a flat pull, the ball taking the top edge to be caught backward of gully, reducing the target by one bonus bowling point. The stand was worth 241 and its termination only brought in Carl Hooper.

Mushy, changing to the Stretford End, strove with unquenchable optimism but Peter Marron's pitch has left Mr Magic without props, neither bounce nor turn. So far he has bowled 33 overs without taking the wicket that will bring him 100 for the summer.

So confident were Lancashire that when the umpires offered them the light at 5.30pm, Law and Hooper stayed on, knowing that Chris Adams was about to take the new ball, to face some unintelligent short-pitched bowling by Billy Taylor. Jason Lewry's more professional approach did bring a breakthrough, trapping Hooper lbw by the close.

In two days this match has lost 97 overs, making a result highly unlikely. Not that Sussex will scorn a draw - it will bring four points, and they still have a match against Leicestershire.