Taylor's toil is salve to Sussex

Lancashire 561-8 dec v Sussex 156-5
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The Independent Online
Had this been a boxing match the referee would have stopped the fight in mid-morning. It was as one-sided as that and one could only feel sorry for Sussex, whose most realistic ambition now is to try and make sure the match goes to a fourth day.

After all the upheavals at Hove in the winter and spring, Sussex knew that this was going to be a long season. After losing four senior players and surviving a palace revolution, the remaining players cannot be blamed for what has happened.

Fortunately for them, Neil Taylor took up the challenge at Old Trafford and was the only Sussex batsman, metaphorically, to bite the ears of the Lancashire bowlers. On the eve of his 38th birthday, he is a little chunkier, with an open stance that must make the bowler sometimes wonder whether he is ready to bat.

Hard though Taylor fought - driving, cutting and hooking in fine style - he was still unable to do anything about the air of unreality which hung heavy over the game. When a side needing 412 to avoid the follow- on has sunk to 65 for 4 there is not a lot that can be done, but at least when Taylor was in Lancashire knew they had a fight on their hands.

This may sound a little unfair, not to say ungenerous, to Lancashire, for no side can do more than beat the opposition set against it. On Wednesday, John Crawley and Neil Fairbrother had assured Lancashire of a good score and now Mike Watkinson and Ian Austin converted it into a huge one. In the first 138 minutes of the day Lancashire added another 181.

Not surprisingly, the Sussex openers seemed bowed down by the weight of their task and concentrated on little more than survival. Peter Martin is full of confidence after his 13-wicket haul against Middlesex at Uxbridge, and bowled extremely well with good control and movement away from the bat. The score was only nine when he had Neil Lenham lbw playing half forward and, at 41, Rajesh Rao was out in similar fashion.

This was just the occasion for a typical innings of interminable patience by Bill Athey but when he made six he felt most uncharacteristically for Austin outside the off-stump without footwork and was caught at first slip.

Two balls later, Keith Greenfield played no stroke at one which came back and bowled him. Taylor's entertaining display followed before Gary Yates cleverly beat him in the air with one he threw up a little more and had him caught at extra cover. After that, it was back to siege warfare until rain ended play with 11 overs still to be bowled.