Magoffin strikes after Goodwin goodbye
Somerset 134 and 155 for 4 (Trescothick 71, Suppiah 70) need another 241 runs to beat Sussex 221 by 308 (Nash 126, Goodwin 77)
Somerset have finished second so often that Brian Rose resigned as director of cricket this week by mutual consent, in the belief that a fresh approach is needed at first-team level, but for a few fleeting moments they must have fondly imagined they could yet pull off an improbable runners-up finish in the Championship as a powerful testimony to the quality he has assembled during his eight years in charge.
Four wickets in five overs at the end of a keenly contested day almost put those hopes to bed. Ah well. "This is for you, Brian, another runners-up gong," might not have been the most subtle parting speech. But Somerset have made substantial progress under Rose's leadership, developing young players, playing attractive cricket and furthering the sense of pride that is never far beneath the surface in Somerset cricket.
To steal that second place from Sussex, Somerset would first have to chase down a target of 396 to win here. When Marcus Trescothick and Arul Suppiah assembled 147 in 43 overs without too many alarms, there was definitely a game on. The excellent Steve Magoffin had been repelled and Chris Nash, the potential partnership breaker, had come close but ultimately broken nothing other than the faith of the Sussex members. "Silly season," muttered one as the ball disappeared to the boundary.
If Somerset could have survived unscathed until the close, the final day would have been evenly balanced. They were half-an-hour away from doing just that. Warwickshire had been confirmed as champions and perhaps a collective gloom would have descended as a result over the south coast. But then Sussex's players would share more than £150,000 for finishing second so perhaps not.
Marcus Trescothick and Arul Suppiah fell on the same score, Trescothick dragging on as he envisaged clumping Monty Panesar over long-on and Suppiah caught by Matt Prior, a rebound off his chest at first slip off Magoffin, seven balls later.
Magoffin, a rangy Queenslander of immense reliability, began with five successive maidens up the slope before having a rare outing downhill in an attempt to change his luck. It came off, first Suppiah then Chris Jones, bowled for a single, and the nightwatchman, Steve Kirby, softened up with a blow on the helmet and then caught at short leg. By the close he had 3 for 15 in 14 overs. He concedes runs in Division One at 2.30 per over; few can match such economy.
Somerset fought with commendable spirit before lunch to keep their target of 396 down to such proportions. Assumptions had been that Sussex would grind towards a tea declaration but the Great Alfonso came to the fore, Thomas taking 4 for 7 in 28 balls (two with the old ball, two with the new) and Sussex's last eight wickets were spirited away for 78 in 29 overs.
There was no farewell hundred for Murray Goodwin, although he did fashion his best Championship score of a meagre season, 78 from 187 balls, before Thomas had him caught at the wicket. His Sussex career finishes with 14,573 first-class runs at 49.23 with 48 centuries.
Sussex have retired Goodwin's No. 3 shirt as a mark of respect to "a great cricketer and a fantastic team man". But whether they have retired Goodwin is another thing. Another county might yet come looking. He certainly wants them to. He is even clinging to the "slim chance" that Sussex might change their mind. He said only found out on Sunday that his contract would not be renewed after indications six weeks earlier that he would be retained. As for the collapse in form that has caused his release, he blamed the abysmal English weather.
"Not many batsmen have made runs this year," he said. "I started with a broken wrist and then there were light issues and wet wickets. When you are on and off the field all the time, it plays with your preparation, your mindset and your rhythm. I have struggled with the weather, maybe more than most. But I still think I have more to offer the county game."
If he had to leave Sussex, and he has no wish to, this was not far short of how he might have imagined it: another glorious late summer's day, a standing ovation from a decent, appreciative crowd and his young sons, Jaydon and Ashton, dashing to greet him as he crossed the boundary rope. Sussex even flew his parents over from Australia for the occasion.
"I had been doing some fielding and I came off the field and saw them there," he said. "It was a nice touch although I was hoping it would happen next year when they could also come over for the Ashes," he said. Jaydon, 10, is already playing Sussex age group cricket and his father remarked with a grimace: "Jaydon has been giving me stick that he has more hundreds this season than I have."
Goodwin was treated to a gracious lunchtime speech in his honour and, even more impressively, it didn't go on as long as the rival speeches blaring out of a marquee adjacent to the media centre. Corporate support is necessary for the survival of the county game, and it was all for an excellent good cause apparently, but by the time the auctioneer began to boom "Going… going… gone," there could barely have been a soul within earshot who did not mutter, "Oh I do wish you were."
Not many at Hove have ever said that about Murray Goodwin.
David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo