Swann takes flight to put Prior in his place

<preform>Sussex 379 and 159<br>Nottinghamshire 509-8 dec and 30-0<br>Nottinghamshire win by 10 wickets</preform>
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The Independent Online

This was supposed to be a tale of two keepers. Chris Read and Matthew Prior had enticed two England selectors to Trent Bridge. Both would be Test candidates if Geraint Jones were to fall out of favour.

This was supposed to be a tale of two keepers. Chris Read and Matthew Prior had enticed two England selectors to Trent Bridge. Both would be Test candidates if Geraint Jones were to fall out of favour.

The idea was that they were the only remaining items of interest in the match. Having begun late on the last day because of rain, the game seemed to have quietly expired when Nottinghamshire finally declared 130 runs ahead of Sussex with only 64 overs remaining.

But Graeme Swann, the newly recruited off-spinner from Northamptonshire, and Greg Smith, an EU player from Pretoria, were disinclined to give the script their approval.

With a late assist from Ryan Sidebottom, and a Trent Bridge pitch that was helping pace and encouraging spin, Nottinghamshire put Sussex's top order to the sword. But Robin Martin-Jenkins' stubborn partnerships with Johannes van der Wath, a recent import from South Africa, and Mushtaq Ahmed had people who just don't bite their nails biting their nails. Relief came only when the last three wickets fell for one run to Sidebottom, who took 4 for 15.

But if victory was to be had, it would be Swann who won it. A six-footer, he runs his hand through his hair to reveal a prominent forehead. He springs into the wicket, and in his first over he got sharp spin and some bounce.

His variation of pace only increased the uncertainty of Sussex's batsmen. Chris Adams, the captain, charged and was stumped by Read; Prior, Read's opposite number, played down the wrong line and was bowled; Van der Wath swiped and was caught behind.

Swann left Northamptonshire, where he was born, because he wanted to play on pitches that are more sympathetic to spin. On his county debut at Trent Bridge, he must have felt that he had done the right thing. Martin-Jenkins used his height to get down the pitch to Swann, and his was very nearly a priceless defensive performance, but when he went so did the Sussex resistance.

The collapse of the tail left Nottinghamshire requiring 30 runs to win in 10 overs; they got them in the sixth. The sun was out, the wind had fallen and a small crowd were left basking in a very unlikely victory.

As for the keepers, they had mixed fortunes. Read added only six to his overnight total and was on 51 when he was caught by Prior slashing hard in a chase for quick runs. But Read stumped Adams, who should have been Sussex's main man, neatly for three. He was required only to stand and watch when Prior was bowled for a duck, and he took three catches besides.

Score this one to Read, who made his second half-century of the season and kept tidily, while Prior's second-innings failure meant that the issue of his temperament, which came sharply into focus when he failed to cope with Shane Warne's sledging last week, did not go away. This judgement may be hard, but the stakes are high.

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