Northamptonshire v Sussex, Wantage Road, 4th day September 26, 2014

Wells digs in as Sussex take third

Press Association

Sussex 368 (Zaidi 88, Wells 81, Yardy 56, Magoffin 51, Stone 5-48) and 343 (Wells 162, Azharullah 7-76) drew with Northamptonshire 294 (Keogh 129, Duckett 60, Magoffin 5-51) and 85 for 1
Scorecard

Sussex clinched third place in Division One for the second successive year after a stalemate with Northamptonshire at Wantage Road.

The home side concluded on 85 for 1, as events petered out into an insipid draw to bring the season to a close.

Both sets of players formed a tunnel for umpires Peter Willey and George Sharp on the morning of what could be their last day on the first-class list. Unless their legal challenge to the ECB's ban on over-65s is successful, they will bow out on the ground they served with distinction. While Willey had the more prominent career culminating in 26 Tests for England, Sharp served as a wicketkeeper between 1970 and 1985 before becoming an umpire.

Once play got under way, there was a sedate period as Sussex ensured there would be no last-day drama to affect their chances. Resuming on 209 for 3, they added just 29 runs in the opening hour, while Northamptonshire offered little penetration.

But Luke Wells took that time to score the remaining nine runs for his 255-ball century, after picking up on 91 not out, with a four off Rob Keogh.

After Yardy was stumped off Keogh for Northamptonshire's first breakthrough, it was Azharullah who would enjoy the day as much as Wells, as he had Brown caught behind for 26.

As the intensity of the game faded and the inevitability of the draw increased, both sides could be forgiven for losing interest but Azharullah maintained his focus to remove Zaidi lbw for his fifth wicket in the innings.

It was the first time the paceman had achieved the feat for Northamptonshire. One ball later, Azharullah was celebrating again when Magoffin edged behind for Rossington's third catch.

It did not stop Wells reaching his 150 with an impressive six over long-on from Olly Stone and he was last man out skying Azharullah to long-on for 162. Sussex were all out for 343 by mid-afternoon and their prize money was safe.

Azharullah finished with 7 for 76 and match figures of 10 for 158 - only the second time in his career he has pulled off the feat.

Northamptonshire's target of 418 in a minimum of 44 overs to register their first win of the year was a target of academic value and they lost Glamorgan-bound opener James Kettleborough for 33, before finishing on 85 for 1. Their nine points accrued from the game leaves them on 79 for the season, the lowest achieved by a county in Division One.

They will return to Division Two after one year, without Kettleborough, James Middlebrook and Andrew Hall who follow the retired David Sales in the exit lounge of Wantage Road.

Sussex on the other hand will enjoy their winnings and director of cricket Mark Robinson reflected on the season.

"You set off trying to win the title, but most people would say that third place is a very creditable spot. It's the same spot as last year. There's not much between the teams and while Yorkshire have been the best team, we could have been in Lancashire's position. ''

Robinson is confident that Division One's leading wicket taker Steve Magoffin will sign a new contract and add to his 72 wickets this season. "We have to manage his overs but he loves this club and it's an incredible achievement to take that many wickets.''

"I don't believe or agree with releasing players or announcing their signing during the summer, if you can help it. For the moment, we've managed to keep things in-house and we know where we are with Steve.''

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