Sussex 399 & 393-6 Kent 336 & 280-7: Sussex waste opportunity to open gap on title rivals

Sussex returned to the top of the County Championship First Division table but with a smaller lead than they might have obtained after Kent declined to be drawn into an unrealistic run chase here yesterday.

Sussex's declaration a little under half an hour into the final day left Kent needing 457 in 88 overs, a target theoretically possible, but one in which Kent were never seriously interested. The draw means Sussex edge five points ahead of Lancashire in the First Division table but Lancashire have a game in hand. A win would have stretched it to 15, which makes Sussex's conservative tactics difficult to understand.

Centuries by Murray Goodwin and Matt Prior on Saturday may have been fun to watch, but a positive result would have been more likely had Kent's openers been exposed to the new ball after a day in the field. A couple of wickets then and the outcome could have been different, with Kent's David Fulton suffering from a stomach upset.

The likelihood of Sussex taking 10 wickets in 88 overs seemed only slightly more realistic than Kent scoring at more than five an over. There was encouragement when Niall O'Brien was leg before to James Kirtley, but his was the only wicket to fall before lunch.

In the afternoon, 20-year-old Ollie Rayner, Sussex's 6ft 6in off-spinner, claimed his maiden first-class wicket by holding a return catch to dismiss Robert Key and turned one past the outside edge to bowl Darren Stevens, but 178 for 4 at tea had the look of a "match drawn" scorecard.

The pacy Yasir Arafat raised Sussex hopes by winning leg before verdicts against Dwayne Bravo and James Tredwell with consecutive balls with the final hour still to begin. Fulton, having survived an unenviable hat-trick ball on his belated arrival and been bowled by an Arafat no-ball, became a third victim for Rayner with four overs left, but Matthew Walker with 70 guided Kent to safety after a personal vigil spanning more than four hours.

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