Drakes' progress

Derbyshire 320 and 220 Sussex 265 and 91-2
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When Devon Malcolm, a loveable, entertaining and almost completely clueless batsman, took guard yesterday afternoon, Derbyshire were 220 ahead in a finely-poised and intriguing contest. Sussex, having conceded a first-innings advantage, enjoyed a rewarding day until then, thanks to Martin Speight in the morning and a tireless Vasbert Drakes after lunch.

By the time Malcolm's swooshing, slicing cameo was complete he had helped Adrian Rollins, who carried his broad bat throughout Derbyshire's effort while the wickets clattered, to the most substantial stand of the innings, and Sussex were now in need of 276 to win. If the home side should fail, they will rue their lack of that final killer blow.

Malcolm also secured earlier glory when achieving his fourth "Michelle" of the season - a "five-for" wicket haul named in honour of the American actress. But his analysis was later to be bettered by the Barbadian fast bowler Drakes, like Malcolm charging up the Hove slope, who ensured that Derbyshire could not capitalise hugely on their first-innings lead with a sustained spell combining stamina, venom and inventiveness. He more than atoned for his morning duck, which, given his surname, probably also has a nickname, by taking five for 47.

Sussex's overnight 212 for seven was extended by the year's first century for the dashing Speight, who missed all last season due to post-viral fatigue and has struggled to regain form. Two slashing cuts for six over backward point in successive Malcolm overs were daring confirmation of his recuperation.

Less sprightly was Colin Wells, playing his first Championship match at Hove since leaving Sussex in 1993. In his second over he collapsed with acute back pain, and retired to the treatment table. Such was Derbyshire's plight in mid-afternoon, however, that he was forced to bat with a runner when his team were 133 for seven, and he helped Rollins to start Derbyshire's recovery.

This is an important game for both teams - after lowly Championship positions in 1995 both are in the hunt at the very least for place money this year - and in spite of the low totals the wicket has remained reliable. And so Bill Athey, though surviving a sharp slip chance on two, and Keith Greenfield began the Sussex chase with confidence in the evening, putting them back in charge. Both, however, had gone by the close.