Mark Robinson's suggestion that his promoted Sussex side are capable of back-to-back titles might not be so fanciful after all. The gap between the two divisions of the Championship has become marked but Sussex, who were down only for one year, do not appear to have suffered.
After a comprehensive win over champions Nottinghamshire last week, they are poised to inflict a defeat on Somerset at Hove that will keep them close enough to the front-runners for Robinson's forecast to look rather more than simple pre-season optimism.
The prolific form of their openers has been a key factor. Chris Nash and Ed Joyce have more than 600 runs each so far, including four partnerships of 100 or more, the latest of which threatened to reach a victory target of 272 without the need for anyone else to strap on their pads, before Joyce was leg before to Lewis Gregory for 84.
The stand of 201 gave the combination a partnership average of 71.2 this season. Just as pleasing for Robinson has been his bowling attack, in which Monty Panesar, with the benefit of an acclimatising 2010 season on the south coast, has regained much of his confidence, James Anyon has looked a bowler reborn after his move from Warwickshire and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan continues to deliver.
The Pakistan fast bowler, who is with the county until Wayne Parnell arrives at the end of June, almost did not make the start of the season because of visa and passport problems, but has made his presence count again.
Now in his fourth spell at Hove, Rana arrived with a record of 159 wickets at an average of 22.84, including 20 in five games at the start of last season. Having taken 10 in this match – the fourth such feat of his career – he has exceeded that tally in his latest stint.
Yesterday, after Anyon had taken three wickets in the morning, two of them in three balls, Rana made short work of the visitors after lunch. Having run out Gemaal Hussain, he then had Steve Kirby leg before and bowled Charl Willoughby with his next ball to finish 10 for 161 in the match.Reuse content