Luke Wright plays long game to save leaders with 187

Sussex 222 & 454 Middlesex 499-8 dec & 50-3 (Match drawn)

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The Independent Online

If there was anyone in the game who might have licked his lips at the prospect of a Twenty20-style slog to settle four days of intense cricket then it was Luke Wright.

Yet this was a match that was all about Wright the four-day player, whose epic 187 led Sussex to a memorable draw after they had been forced to follow-on, not only preserving their unbeaten record in the Championship but keeping them top of the First Division.

Wright, who has played almost four times as many limited overs as first-class matches, had not made a century in the Championship for two years yet emerged as their unlikely hero with the innings of his life, eclipsing his previous best by some distance and taking Sussex most of the way to a mammoth 454 in their second innings.

It left Middlesex to chase 178 to win, in the event in precisely 20 overs, a task for which they are not well equipped and which they gave up rather abruptly once their three biggest hitters had been out, with 50 scored, in the seventh over.

Middlesex had their regrets in a match they needed to see out after outplaying Sussex. The two biggest ones were the chances they gave Wright, most notably on Friday evening when he swept a ball from Ollie Rayner straight to the fielder at deep square-leg, only for Tim Murtagh to spill a regulation catch. He was on 40 at the time.

He was dropped again yesterday, on 153, a difficult chance coming over his shoulder and out of the sun but which Chris Rogers, the Middlesex captain, should have held. Murtagh was the bowler this time. Noticeably, he held back from complaining.

Wright batted for six and a half hours for his 187, hitting 25 fours. He had been Sussex's most durable batsman in their disappointing first effort, too, with three hours at the crease. He could not remember batting for so long, but with the weariness came satisfaction.

"You would prefer your runs to contribute to a win rather than a draw but in the circumstances it was probably the best I've played in four-day cricket," he said. "I'm known for what I've done in Twenty20 and the IPL and in one-day cricket for England, but I have been on Test tours in the past and it doesn't mean I've given up on four-day cricket and trying to contribute to winning games in that format."

Middlesex had sniffed victory when Ed Joyce was caught at slip in the third over with the second new ball, two short of his hundred, at which point the Sussex lead was only five, with only five wickets in hand and more than two sessions left.

But prising out Wright proved beyond them and the help he found from Will Beer was critical.