Sussex seize on Worcestershire's errors
Worcestershire 199 for 7 v Sussex 375
Worcestershire may well go on to avoid relegation this season, but goodness me, they are making life hard for themselves.
Whenever it appears they are on the brink of safety, they suffer a reverse that throws their survival into doubt once more. Most pertinently, they resume on day three requiring 27 more runs to avoid the follow-on.
Perhaps such nerves are understandable. This is Worcestershire's third spell in the top division and, on all previous occasions, their experience has ended in relegation after a single year. One bookmaker offered odds of 20-1 on, on them suffering a similar fate this time.
They deserve to survive. Not only have they won four games, but they've been unlucky on several other occasions. One bad session has cost them in several matches, while they were robbed a possible victory by shoddy covering at The Rose Bowl recently.
They continue to stumble with the line in sight, however. They have been several occasions during this game when it has appeared as if they had survival within their grasp. Firstly when Sussex slipped to 234 for seven, then when Worcestershire's openers posted 64 without undue difficulty and finally when Alexei Kervezee and Gareth Andrew added 73 for their sixth wicket.
Each time, however, Worcestershire have allowed Sussex back into the game. Whether it has been with some quite out of character awful fielding, or with their tentative batting, Worcestershire find themselves on the back foot in a game in which they could have been dominating.
Perhaps such a summary is unfair on Sussex. Monty Panesar, in particular, has applied sustained pressure on the Worcestershire batting with a testing spell of bowling, while Sussex's tail also wagged vigorously. Indeed, Sussex added 141 runs for the final three wickets, with Jimmy Anyon showing up the paucity of the Worcestershire support bowling with an increasingly accomplished innings.
Worcestershire, however, will reflect that they made life far too easy for the Susses tail-enders. For all his unrewarded excellence on day one, Kemar Roach sprayed the ball around horribly on the second day, while the catch that James Cameron out down at mid-wicket off Anyon left his team-mates transfixed with shock and horror. By professional standards, they don't come much easier. Doubts continue over Richard Jones' ability to prosper at this level, too. While he does have the tremendous ability of bowling wicket-taking deliveries, such moments are interspersed with some far less impressive bowling. That Anyon, a batsmen of few pretensions, was able to hook him for a six and four in the same over speaks volumes.
Anyon finished unbeaten on 44 having added 52 for the tenth wicket with Panesar. It was a valuable stand, for it helped Sussex to a fourth batting bonus point and a step nearer Division One survival.
Panesar's real work was always going to be with the ball, however. Beginning his spell about 40 minutes before tea, he bowled unchanged until stumps and claimed four important wickets. Vikram Solanki, playing with hard hands at one pushed through typically quickly, edged to short leg, before Moeen Ali was adjudged caught at slip off an arm ball (replays suggested Moeen might have been unlucky, as the ball appeared to have come off only the pad). Gareth Andrew was deceived in the flight and yorked while Ben Scott, who has agreed a one-year deal with Worcestershire, was leg before to the final delivery of the day, another that was pushed through and went straight on.
It might be tempting to conclude that Panesar is now back to best. Tempting, but not quite true. Panesar certainly doesn't bowl many poor balls. Indeed, he pushes the ball through at such a pace that the batsman cannot afford to make any mistake.
But he also doesn't turn the ball away from the bat much and continues to lack variety. The wicket of Andrew - victim of a delightfully well-flighted delivery that dipped sharply - stuck out for its novelty value and also hinted at the untapped promise that Panesar possesses. It is surely worth noting that three of his wickets here came either with deliveries that went straight on or drifted with the arm. In terms of flight and lateral spin, he has been out-bowled in this match by Moeen Ali.
Worcestershire had started well in reply. Cameron, in particular, looked in fine touch and it was some surprise when he was yorked by the lanky Will Adkin. It was Adkin's first wicket of the season and just the second of his career. Tall and blessed with a pleasing action, he looks as if he has the raw attributes to succeed as a bowler, though he could do with adding a yard of pace. Later Darly Mitchell and Aneesh Kapil were both beaten for pace.
At least Alexei Kervezee resisted. The 21-year-old has been in horrid form of late, scoring just 17 runs in his last five Championship innings, but here he survived an uncomfortable start and resumes on day three charged with averting the follow-on.
Earlier Moeen was the pick of the host's bowlers on day two. Ending Ben Brown's fine innings with his first delivery of the day - Brown charge down the pitch and was beaten by the flight - Moeen finished with admirable figures of 4 for 53. The statistics are modest as yet, but he could yet develop into an all-rounder at international level.
Meanwhile the sizeable - and affable - contingent of Sussex supporters that have travelled to this game were joined in an impromptu game of cricket on the outfield at tea by their club's chief executive, Dave Brooks. It's hard to think of another county CEO who would have participated in quite such an unashamedly enthusiastic way and was an insight upon the friendly and approachable spirit on which Sussex pride themselves. ECB chairman Giles Clarke, watching on from a hospitality suite, didn't join in.
George Dobell is chief writer at Spin magazine