Cameras were trained and binoculars raised when Mushtaq Ahmed arrived to bowl at 2.53pm, needing one wicket for his 100 for the season and for the £500 bonus Sussex have promised to pay him for the achievement. Lancashire were 53 for 1 after a late start, Sussex 10 points away from their first Championship title.
But cricket, especially county cricket, is never predictable and three hours later the snappers were drifting away to sight their lenses on Liechtenstein.
Not that Sussex, or Mushy, bowled badly. After heavy rain overnight, the pitch was damper and slower than they must have expected but the seamers were accurate and persevering. Billy Taylor had an excellent opening spell, during which Mark Chilton was caught behind one-handed. Jason Lewry and Robin Martin-Jenkins alternated from the Statham End, Lewry eventually persuading Iain Sutcliffe into mistiming to square-leg.
By then the little spinning star was trotting in, over after over. He beat the bat, perhaps once an over; he appealed, possibly twice an over. He frowned, grinned, grimaced, gesticulated, delivered leg-breaks, googlies and top-spinners, and must have felt he was bowling at a brick wall.
But for England's illogical demands and better luck with the weather Lancashire would now be on the verge of their first outright Championship since 1934. England have had the benefit of much of their bowling. Both Andrew Flintoff and James Anderson were ordered to be rested from this match despite the team for Bangladesh only leaving on 7 October.
Lancashire did give Sussex one splendid chance. Mal Loye, when 66, should have been run out when Taylor misfielded Matthew Prior's accurate throw from cover. Loye, reprieved, accelerated and celebrated his arrival in the 90s with a six over long-on off Mark Davies.Reuse content