After his controversial first-innings dismissal, Matt Prior’s fortunes hardly improved as Sussex slid towards defeat. And this time England’s Test match wicketkeeper could blame no one but himself.
Prior, left fuming on Thursday after being given out to a catch he believed did not carry, took extra net practice yesterday morning, intent on making Middlesex pay. The opportunity came as Sussex were forced to follow on, but he had made only 18 when he took an ugly swipe at a ball from James Harris and lobbed an easy catch to midwicket.
Prior has yet to learn how dim a view the umpires will take of his dissent, but after England colleague Graeme Swann picked up a points penalty for a much milder show of disagreement for Nottinghamshire against Durham last month, he will be lucky to escape. Sussex, meanwhile, do not need to be told that their unbeaten start to the Championship season is under serious threat.
Although Ed Joyce and Luke Wright were making a respectable fist last night of delaying the seemingly inevitable, Sussex have been woeful more or less from the moment that captain Joyce won the toss and decided to let Middlesex bat first.
Wright had been at the crease at the start of the day, too, working hard alongside Will Beer to extend their eighth-wicket partnership to 88, but Sussex still trailed by 294 runs when Neil Dexter found some swing to have Beer caught behind. Wright, having reached 77 without ever looking fluent, undid his efforts with a soft return catch to off-spinner Ollie Rayner, who was on his way to his first five-wicket haul since 2008.
Following on, needing 277 just to make Middlesex bat again, Sussex lost Luke Wells for a duck and had chipped only 67 off the deficit when Mike Yardy pushed the ball towards third man and Chris Nash failed to beat Joe Denly’s direct hit after calling for a single. Yardy threw his wicket away on the stroke of tea when he top-edged a pull to be caught by a leg gully set by Harris.