Panesar leaves victory within sight
Sussex 279 (Khan 57*, Rehman 5-70) and 31 for 0 need 133 more runs to beat Somerset 247 (Trescothick 123, Panesar 7-60) and 195 (Suppiah 59, Panesar 6-77)
Monty Panesar, the 'Sultan' himself, is spinning Sussex into contention for the Division One title. Having taken career-best figures of 7 for 60 in Somerset's first innings, he took a further six wickets now, at a cost of 77. Fine, if flat and quickish bowling, almost at Derek Underwood's pace at times, on a pitch that gave him assistance throughout, and under the gaze of James Whitaker, the England selector.
All of which left Sussex needing 164 to win - 31 runs of which they had achieved by stumps. The weather, it would seem, is their main obstacle to achieving a victory which will give them the very spur they need in their quest to become champions. Panesar, it should be noted, has outbowled Abdur Rehman in this match, although, of course, there is time enough for that to change.
Bowling from the Pavilion End, Panesar exerted control, accuracy and sufficient nous to account for the Somerset batting. Not just any old wickets, either: he numbered Marcus Trescothick among them. The former England batsman, who had made a century in the first innings and 38 now out of an opening partnership of 84 with Arul Suppiah, had just flicked him twice to the midwicket boundary when he was beaten by guile as opposed to turn.
Panesar saw him advancing down the pitch, pushed his arm ball a little wider and Trescothick edged to slip. From 84 for no wicket, Somerset subsided to 195 all out. Umpires are quite unafraid nowadays to give batsmen out lbw on the front foot, well forward, as Alex Barrow - admittedly, a small man - and Steve Kirby were in this innings. James Hildreth rashly attempted to hit him over the top and was held by mid-off, who moved a few yards to his right, and Peter Trego also went leg before.
There were wickets, too, for Chris Nash, bowling offspinners at a rather more sedate pace: Suppiah, who is capable of the most elegant cover drives, reached a half century before too uppish a forcing shot off the back foot was held at short cover. Credit here to Ed Joyce for such a field placing. Jos Buttler, seemingly playing for turn, was taken by Ben Brown and Rehman was a third victim. The injured Nick Compton was much missed. He may not play again this season due to a prolapsed disc.
Sussex had proved more purposeful with the bat, too. Resuming on 161 for 6 in the morning, they made swift runs through half-centuries by Brown, who hit eight fours, and by Amjad Khan, who reached 50 off 44 balls with a six and eight fours. He really can give the ball a good old tonk. No matter that other tail-enders went cheaply. A first innings lead of 32 was as useful as it was unexpected. In fairness to Rehman, the latest of Somerset's overseas signings, he did take 5 for 70.
As for the final act of the day, one in which Sussex needed to collect as many runs as possible given a dire forecast of rain for much of Friday, Ed Joyce and Nash were untroubled. Alarmingly so from Somerset's perspective. Rehman was given the new ball and Suppiah had the penultimate over, but neither was a match for Panesar. They need to be if Somerset are to win.