It always seems to fall to Alan Wells to bale out Sussex when they are all at sea. But not even their skipper could prevent them being blown out of the water, first by the Middlesex batting, then by the bowling yesterday.
Wells did a repair job of sorts but bottom-of-the-table Sussex had been badly holed below the waterline in the opening over when Dion Nash whipped out Bill Athey and Keith Newell in the space of three deliveries, the one in between being a no ball.
Richard Johnson then struck in his third over, Keith Greenfield departed and so did Sussex hopes of passing the imposing follow-on figure of 452.
Enter Wells to have a stab at shoring up the innings but he needed more support than that provided by the other Sussex half-centurion, Franklyn Stephenson, who hobbled out with a runner and hammered 55, six fewer than his captain. Johnson, Nash and Phil Tufnell finished with three wickets apiece and Sussex started again, 401 adrift.
After a quarter of an hour of the day Mike Gatting had reached his second Championship hundred in successive innings, but having added nine to his overnight 92 the Middlesex captain declined to offer a shot as a ball from Jason Lewry rapped him on the pads and he departed leg before.
Mark Ramprakash duly reached the third double century of his career in the next over, but he fell soon after, Lewry bowling him off his pads to end a superb innings. All his double hundreds have been made at Lord's, the first two coming off Surrey, this one containing 34 boundaries in a 295-ball stay.
There were a couple of breezy knocks after that, one from John Carr and an unbeaten 50 from Nash as Middlesex reached their highest total of the season in becoming the second side to pile up more than 600 against Sussex this summer.