The only unanswered question about Sussex's ability to hold their nerve and clinch a second Championship in four seasons appeared to be over how soon they could complete the job as Nottinghamshire collapsed and, asked to follow on, then slipped towards defeat yesterday evening.
Developments at the Rose Bowl made it clear that Sussex would be unable to rely on a draw to keep Lancashire in their slipstream but the Nottinghamshire fight-back that Mark Chilton and his colleagues had been hoping to see thwart the leaders' plans fell apart as the hosts, who had been 143 for 3, lost four wickets for one run in 13 deliveries just before tea.
Given that the outgoing champions had been still better placed at 84 for 2, this represented a dramatic decline and one that suggested the requirement to achieve just a single batting point, by reaching 200, to finally see off the threat of relegation might have lulled them into potentially fatal complacency. Their dismissal for 165 instead left Stephen Fleming's team reliant on Yorkshire to turn the commanding platform they had built around Darren Lehmann's colossal innings into a victory over Durham, thus avoiding the nightmare possibility that both those sides would pick up enough points from a draw to confine Nottinghamshire to the bottom two.
The rapid tumble of wickets was in complete contrast to the morning session, when Sussex enjoyed unchallenged prosperity as Matt Prior and Robin Martin-Jenkins added runs to the overnight 420 for 5 at such a pace that Chris Adams was able to declare at 560 for 5 before lunch.
Martin-Jenkins, whose assured stroke play amassed 10 fours in his first fifty, might have felt aggrieved not to be allowed the chance to complete what was looking like a guaranteed hundred. But Sussex, by then, had more than enough.
Nottinghamshire, whose title defence has been dismal, would probably have handed over the trophy with a smile had they been able to claim that elusive extra point. Instead, after the failures of Darren Bicknell - in his last match before retirement - David Alleyne and Will Smith to lay a foundation, the dismissal of Samit Patel, caught at cover off a slower ball from Martin-Jenkins, precipitated dismay for Lancashire as the last seven wickets went for 22 runs in 15 overs, Mushtaq Ahmed inevitably leading the way with 4 for 20.
A turning pitch has become the perfect platform for the Pakistan leg-spinner - needing 11 in the match to equal his 2003 score of 100 first-class wickets - who then single-handedly dismissed the first four Nottinghamshire batsmen before fading light shielded the home side from further embarrassment at 50 for 4.Reuse content