Sussex hopes turn to gloom

CRICKET Lancashire 355 & 215 Sussex 317 & 145-6
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The Independent Online
LANCASHIRE are poised on the brink of a victory that will keep them in the Championship race, despite a bowling display from Paul Jarvis that went a long way to dismissing the charge that this wicket is unfairly weighted towards spinners.

The former Yorkshire and England fast bowler returned his best figures for Sussex for more than a year, including a spell of 5 for 17 before lunch. That saw Lancashire dismissed for a mere 215, raising hopes for a while that the last placed side in the County Championship might reach the 254 they needed for an improbable win.

By close of play, however, spin had reasserted itself, with Mike Watkinson and Gary Keedy taking two wickets apiece to leave Sussex still 109 short with just four men left.

In view of the fact that 18 of the 22 wickets on the first two days had fallen to spinners, it was unsurprising that Sussex opened up with Ian Salisbury and Nick Phillips in harness. Phillips, in his third Championship game, suffered on several counts, having John Crawley put down by Salisbury when he was only three and seeing four sixes disturb the deckchairs off his bowling, three of them struck by Crawley.

Phillips, blond and bespectacled like the Milky Bar Kid, had rapid revenge on the perpetrator of the other six when he had Jason Gallian caught behind off the next ball. Lancashire were still progressing well, however, until Jarvis took over from Salisbury. He got rid of a strangely hesitant Neil Fairbrother, caught and bowled low to his right hand, before Phillips had Steve Titchard lbw without scoring, in the next over.

Nick Speak was well caught behind to give Jarvis his second victim and Mike Watkinson went on his second ball without scoring as Jarvis continued to show that there was a place for straight, honest seam bowling even on a such a notably bare and dusty pitch.

A simpler caught and bowled by Jarvis accounted for Crawley after the England batsman's 70 had brought up his thousand runs for the season. Wasim Akram went to a fine, deep catch by Toby Peirce before a potentially valuable knock from Warren Hegg ended when the same fielder took a chance at short square leg off Phillips to end the innings sooner than Lancashire had hoped.

Although it should have been Wasim who felt most at home on a wicket resembling one of the dustier back streets of Lahore, it was Ian Austin who made the early breakthrough for Lancashire, trapping Peirce.

When five more wickets fell before 6.30pm, there seemed a case for an extra half-hour, but Lancashire, barring an alarming turn of events, will be confident of wrapping matters up tomorrow morning.