Lumb, Taylor cement Notts advantage
Nottinghamshire 443 for 4 (Lumb 171, Taylor 106*) lead Sussex 171 (Wells 54, Carter 3-41) by 272 runs
It must sometimes seem to Mick Newell, Nottinghamshire's director of cricket, that he has spent the whole of his 10 years in the post striving to assemble a batting line-up for a bowler-friendly ground. He has chopped and changed so much that his top two, in particular, have appeared to be in permanent rotation and a first-innings scorecard showing 100 up for less than five wickets down has sometimes felt like a good day.
Little wonder, then, that this season's stats are encouraging him to feel that he might at last have cracked it after some shrewd recruitment over the winter.
Michael Lumb - who moved from Hampshire at the end of last season - has delivered three centuries from the No. 3 slot, the latest a superb 171 in this match, his highest score for the county thus far. And James Taylor, to a certain extent a batsman of unproven potential when he arrived from Leicestershire, further endorsed Newell's judgment with his first century at Division One level. With Riki Wessels, the latest batsman asked to make one of the opener's slots his own, responding with two hundreds in ten innings, including 199 against Sussex at Hove, Newell's batting line-up looks as formidable as any in the competition.
Taylor's innings - in which he remains unbeaten overnight - removes any doubt over his ability to transfer his talents to a more testing environment. A regular for England Lions, he was being touted for rapid promotion to the senior international side after scoring almost 3,700 first-class runs in four seasons at Grace Road but the selectors have been decisive in their policy towards him. They reasoned that a season to bed himself in at the higher level would do him no harm and his progress with Nottinghamshire has justified their caution.
Although he made a century on his first-class Notts debut against Loughborough MCCU, Taylor's first 14 innings in the Championship yielded only 328 runs and the four driven square on the offside off Amjad Khan that took him into three figures lifted some pressure off his shoulders.
"The pressure was from myself, really, because I expect to score runs and know I can," he said. "I felt it was only a matter of time but I'm pleased it has come today so that I can take a bit of form into the Lions games coming up.
"It has been a bit of a step-up to play against first division bowling, especially since the wickets have done so much this year. We have been on the wrong end of a couple of tosses, too, batting first in difficult conditions, so it was nice to have the chance to make some runs, particularly with Lumby at the other end.
"He has settled in really well and it is a massive advantage if you have someone coming in at three who can set the game up like that and he has done that all season.
"We do want result wickets here and there has been lots of grass on them. It has been tough when we have batted first. You need to concentrate and be very careful with your shot selection but when the sun comes out they can be easier to bat on and today was an example of that."
Lumb and Taylor between them put Nottinghamshire in a commanding position, sharing a partnership of 188 for the fourth wicket that means Sussex will need to make considerable improvement on their first-innings performance even to make Nottinghamshire bat a second time.
The former was dropped offering a high chance to Murray Goodwin at point on 28 but otherwise he made few errors and there were some wonderfully handsome strokes among his 27 fours, with the drive in particularly good order. Lumb has mastered the demands of batting here especially well, although he had good memories of the ground anyway, having made his career-best 219 against Nottinghamshire for Hampshire, three years ago. This innings has taken him to 837 first-class runs for the season.
It was a thankless day to be a Sussex bowler. Khan had an early success against Wessels with a ball that knocked middle and off stumps out of the ground but between that and Steve Magoffin's dismissal of Lumb, who was engaged in a chase for the fifth batting point when he left his leg stump exposed, the only wicket to fall came when Samit Patel, who hit eight fours in a breezy 43, edged offspinner Chris Nash's fifth delivery to slip.
The wicket was one more than Monty Panesar had to show for 30 overs of toil and frustration and James Anyon's 102 runs conceded came in only 17 overs. Anyon and Khan each contributed heavily to 40 runs in the extras box, for good measure.