Lancashire won their first two matches of 2011 by an innings and had completed three more wins before they suffered their first defeatagainst Durham at the beginning of June. This time it has taken less than three days for them to learn that the defence of their first outright County Championship in 77 years will not be without setbacks.
Sussex won by 10 wickets at around 2.30pm, having been required to come out and bat for a second time only because the otherwise metronomically accurate Steve Magoffin had allowed Gareth Cross to pick up some rare easy runs and level the scores before the No 11 Simon Kerrigan became the Australian seamer's seventh victim.
Magoffin, who had played county cricket previously for Surrey and Worcestershire, was not sure, at 32 and having never played international cricket, that he would have a chance to play in England again because of changes in eligibility rules for overseas players. But after Sussex's attempts to sign the New Zealander Tim Southee had come to nothing, they looked at Magoffin as an alternative and it turned out that his wife, Becky, whom he met while he was at New Road in 2008, was his passport to a return, literally.
"I had a call during the Sheffield Shield final in late March to say that the qualification scenario for myself had changed with my wife being British and that they could get me in here on a spouse visa," he said. Magoffin suffered such bad back spasms during that final, in which Queensland beat Tasmania, that he had needed the physio's assistance to get out of bed on the second morning, yet continued in the game to be one half of an heroic match-winning partnership. "It seems to have settled down now and Robbo [Sussex coach Mark Robinson] wants me to be the guy to bowl maidens and build pressure, which is pretty much my skill.
"You hope as a bowling unit that someone on the day will take the wickets. Today it was myself but Jimmy [Anyon] bowled beautifully in the first innings to get five."
Magoffin's 7 for 34 is not his best analysis overall but his best in England and his match return of 9 for 55 represents a splendid Sussex debut. There was always something in the pitch for the quicker bowlers, although the freezing temperatures were not helpful.
"It was 40 degrees and humid when I last played, in the Shield final at the Gabba, so this was something else," Magoffin said. "It wasn't a problem bowling but the hour or so between spells you start to stiffen up. Your fingers are so cold you don't want the ball coming at you very quick."
That was his excuse, at any rate, for dropping a normally routine chance at fine-leg when Ashwell Prince top-edged Anyon on 42, although thanks to his own efforts the error cost only 16 runs. Prince (58) and Luke Procter (46) kept Lancashire alive in an 88-run fifth-wicket partnership but the captain Glen Chapple admitted the champions were outplayed by Sussex, for whom Mike Yardy's century on Friday was the key.
"It was a poor toss to lose and it was hard going on the first day but the pitch was only a little bit underdone," he said. "We normally start the season well and we were slow to get going. We've only lost one game but there are a lot of good sides in this division and it is not going to be easy."