Yorkshire stumble over Zaidi's debut
Sussex 292 and 48 for 2 lead Yorkshire 326 (Zaidi 4-57, Anyon 3-107) by 14 runs
Yorkshire's seam attack has proved itself a formidable unit over the past five months and when Ryan Sidebottom uprooted Luke Wells's off stump with a brutish swinging delivery as early as the third ball of Sussex's second innings, it was clear that Ed Joyce's batsmen were to have their work cut out amid the encircling gloom on the south coast.
It was a good day for anthropologists at Hove. The morning was spent watching players, umpires and spectators conduct themselves during the bizarre set of rituals associated with a delayed start because of rain and a wet outfield; the afternoon and evening offered the sight of Yorkshire's batsmen playing a little carelessly and being bowled out for 292, thus gaining a first-innings lead of only 34 when an advantage around 100-150 was probably desirable.
But still, the White Rose removed two wickets before the deficit was wiped out - Michael Yardy cover-driving Liam Plunkett low to Phil Jaques's right. But that was as good as it got for Andrew Gale's title-chasing team. Soon after Yardy's departure, the visiting skipper was compelled by the light to bowl only his spinners and even the gentle twisters of Kane Williamson and Adil Rashid were judged by the umpires to be too severe a test in Hove's growing murk.
Only 42 overs were possible on the third day of this game and Gale will plainly be hoping that conditions on the last day allow his bowlers to make the swift inroads they require if the gap between themselves and leaders Durham is not to remain more or less the same as it was on Wednesday morning. There are two rounds of County Championship matches left and they look like being tense affairs indeed.
But if Sussex do not have a great deal invested in the outcome of this game - they are that rare thing in September, a mid-table Division One side - the same cannot be said of their slow left-armer Ashar Zaidi, who is effectively on trial over these four days. For the past three English summers Zaidi has been plying his trade for Accrington in the Lancashire League where his skipper, the ex-Lancashire batsman Graham Lloyd, recently described him as "a little bit of stardust" when his team won the title.
Until yesterday, the people most readily associated with Accrington by the general public are probably David Lloyd, Graham's father, and the novelist Jeanette Winterson. One or two more literary types might mention Peter Whelan's First World War play The Accrington Pals. Well at least Sussex cricket lovers now have another reason to recall that fine town of steep hills and narrow streets after Zaidi added the wickets of Gary Ballance, Adil Rashid and Liam Plunkett to that of Adam Lyth and finished the innings with figures of 4 for 57 from his 23.2 overs. While Zaidi, a well-travelled Pakistani professional, may not earn an extended run in the Sussex team - indeed he may not play for them again - he has performed decently enough in this game. True, he does not turn the ball yards, and also true, the batsmen conspired in their own downfall, Ballance top-edging a sweep and Rashid driving loosely to mid-on, but Zaidi maintained a decent line and earned his wickets.
So for all that Andrew Gale's stressed the need to attack and play positively when play finally got under way at 2.10pm, he will surely have been hoping that his last six wickets would not be taken for as few as 76 runs in 24 overs. A larger lead would have given Yorkshire the chance to attack in the field on the final day and it will be galling in the extreme for Gale's men if they are left with too stiff a target to chase.
Williamson was lbw to Anyon without adding to his overnight 80 and the excellent Magoffin accounted for nightwatchman Steve Patterson. Plunkett whacked a cheery 27 but there remained a sense that amid the bad light and rain breaks, Yorkshire had missed something of an opportunity to truly dominate the contest. Tomorrow we may find out if such tentative judgements were justified.