Gurney pushes Sussex into relegation struggle
Nottinghamshire 570 for 7 dec (Taylor 291, Read 121, Robinson 4-112) beat Sussex 213 (Gurney 5-75) and 254 (Machan 108, Wood 3-27, Gurney 3-56) by an innings and 103 runs
These are troubling times for Sussex: too many bowlers injured, too many batsmen out of form and too many counties threatening to finish above them in the First Division table. Relegation would have been a long-odds chance before the season began, but not now. Not after this desperate day's work.
Full credit to Nottinghamshire, of course, who began the latest round of matches in a similar position, at least points-wise, but have dominated their hosts from the moment on the first afternoon when James Taylor and Chris Read embarked on a sixth-wicket partnership that was to realise 365 runs.
But while those two deflated Sussex, it was Harry Gurney who all but destroyed them. The currently out of favour England one-day bowler bent his back during every spell, dragging extra pace and disconcerting bounce out of a pitch which, by and large, still encouraged batsmen to dream of big scores.
Gurney's reward was a five-for in the first innings - his second against Sussex this season - and three more wickets once a doomed home side were forced to follow-on 357 runs behind. Derbyshire's Mark Footitt may register more brightly on England's radar at the moment when it comes to left-arm pace bowlers but, on this showing, Gurney should remain in the reckoning.
"I thought Harry Gurney had an exceptional match," said Mick Newell, Nottinghamshire's coach. "He was fast and aggressive throughout and presented a challenge for the Sussex batsmen. He bowled with serious pace and was impressive whether he was bowling left-arm over or left-arm round. What we want to do now is see him bowl like this more consistently."
What of Sussex, though? Wins against Hampshire and Worcestershire right at the start of the season prompted thoughts of a title challenge. Now, as things stand, only Hampshire are below them in the table - and two of their last five matches are against the seemingly unstoppable Yorkshire.
Much can be made of the fact that Sussex are without five pace bowlers - Chris Jordan, Tymal Mills, Ajmal Shahzad, Jimmy Anyon and Lewis Hatchett - because of injury. And of those, only Jordan can be expected, with any degree of certainty, to figure in the final third of the championship programme.
As a result, the promising Ollie Robinson is playing on despite sore shins and a recently dislocated finger when he - like the equally raw Matthew Hobden - could do with a rest.
But, if anything, it is the batting that currently causes even more concern, especially after today. Resuming this morning on a shaky but not hopeless 157 for 4, Sussex lost their last six wickets for 56 runs and did not even reach lunch unscathed second time around - opener Luke Wells giving catching practice to the slip cordon.
Thereafter, it was helter-skelter stuff with neither the next boundary nor the next wicket very far away. Matt Machan and Luke Wright scored 108 and 67 respectively at the rate of a run a ball as a lightning fast outfield continued to give full reward, but what Sussex need more than anything was a bit of stickability.
On the day when former England one-day player Mike Yardyannounced his intention to retire at the end of this season, the hosts could find no-one to play the kind of battling innings championship innings their ex-captain might have produced when at his best.
The current skipper, Ed Joyce, typifies Sussex's struggles. The Irishman scored seven championship hundreds last season while making nearly 1,400 runs at an average of 66 but this year he is century-less and averaging below 30.
Joyce, Chris Nash and Craig Cachopa were all given second chances in the second innings with three catches going down. But not one of them made Notts pay any sort of price - unlike Read, who was reprieved on day one and turned 35 into 121.
By the end, Sussex could not even make their visitors claim the extra half-hour, being bowled out in 61 overs for 254 to make it 310 for 16 on the day. Just as well, perhaps, that the Members' Forum with director of cricket Mark Robinson was held this morning, rather than after play.
David Lloyd is a former chief cricket correspondent of PA and the Evening Standard