Notts disappointment marks progress
Sussex 306 (Wells 59, Joyce 59, Gurney 4-69) and 223 for 6 (Brown 51*) drew with Nottinghamshire 356 (Patel 157, Shahzad 56, Jordan 6-97) and 304 for 9 (Taylor 97, Cowan 81, Franks 78)
Four days of compelling cricket ended in stalemate, as Ben Brown and Chris Jordan guided Sussex to the safety of stumps on the final day. Entering the final hour with four wickets left to take and a minimum of 16 overs to do it in, Nottinghamshire will rue not finishing the job but left with the satisfaction of disappointment in a draw away to the Championship leaders.
At the start of May, Chris Read's side were left shell-shocked after Durham chased 183 runs in just 20.2 overs on the fourth evening to win their Championship match at at Trent Bridge. They have since rallied to win six of their last seven matches - five in the YB40 - and, looking at their team, there is no reason why they should not join the bunch of four above them, with a batting line-up and pace attack capable of dealing with most of cricket's permutations.
"Ultimately it's been a disappointing result to come away from here with a draw, but we can leave knowing that we controlled large parts of the game," said Read, who felt their start in the Championship belied the quality they possess. "We'll continue to prove to ourselves, throughout the season, that we're a very talented side and the results will come with that."
Notts' display today was indicative of a side focused on the top, as they made the hosts sweat with some sustained pressure in the middle session. Perhaps the only criticism would be that they allowed Jordan and Brown - who brought up his half century in the last over of the day - to leave more than they should have been able to, especially when they had use of a new ball for the last nine overs.
Harry Gurney started at the Cromwell Road End with the first new ball, but it was Luke Fletcher - wholeheartedly running up an incline, into the wind for his opening eight-over spell - who first made something happen when he pushed one across Luke Wells to claim the first wicket of the innings.
Ajmal Shahzad, as he did on day two, brought the heat and the noise. By the time he returned for his second spell in the 52nd over, Sussex had given up the chase, giving him license to tear in and do what he does best.
Lauded by Read for his commitment and application since moving away from dysfunction at Headingley, Shahzad put in his best display of the season with movement in the air and off the pitch to go with his rapid-fire arm. The manner in which he knocked out Chris Nash's and Rory Hamilton-Brown's off stumps was so theatrical that it was like watching an homage to Cirque du Soleil. His howls of delight echoed mockingly around the ground.
Even Samit Patel, bowling his 30 overs unchanged from the other end, was spiky after he had a few appeals turned down by umpire David Millns. Between overs, Peter Willey took it upon himself to have a few words with Patel, amid muttered calls of "Fine him!" from the deck chairs.
Paul Franks continued with the bat in the morning, contributing a mixture of lusty blows and wild hacks. He added 22 in 20 balls, including a brace of fours and a superbly struck six over midwicket the ball before playing on to Luke Wright.
It meant Sussex needed to score more than four an over for the rest of the day for victory and to extend their lead over second-placed Yorkshire, who had drawn with Somerset. They didn't get close but Ed Joyce will take sitting at the top ahead of a crunch game at Lord's on Wednesday against Middlesex - the only other unbeaten side in Division One.