Wright double leaves Worcs in trouble
Worcestershire 210 and 59 for 3 trail Sussex 510 for 5 dec (Wright 226*, Brown 103, Nash 90) by 241 runs
It was hard to see much hope for Worcestershire as they hauled themselves off the field after conceding 510 for 5. Sussex, their supposed companions in distress, will have high expectations of forcing an innings victory on the final day and, with Hampshire also winning at Chester-le-Street, Worcestershire are braced for the likelihood that they will enter the weekend as Division One's bottom club.
They have already lost three second-innings wickets, two them from the spinners as they were forced to bowl in indifferent light. They began this round with a points tally of 118 - the information number - and if they are foolhardy enough to ring it, they will probably receive directions to Division Two.
Their undoing came against Luke Wright, who formulated a career-best 226 not out, the first double-century of his career, and shared in a fourth-wicket stand with Ben Brown of 282 in 64 overs - the fourth highest for that wicket in Sussex's history. As with all Wright's best innings, it was full of stocky aggression, a reminder of why England valued him so highly and gave him 101 caps in the two limited-overs formats.
He finds himself the leading run-scorer in Division One, no longer able to be viewed as solely a white-ball specialist. "To be fair to Jonny Bairstow, he's only had a couple of innings," he laughed. "It will mean more if we stay up. This year I've been able to prepare, practice and play. It is my benefit year and I was determined not to let it affect my form." The lack of bowling also takes the strain out of his knees.
As for Brown, he has four Championship hundreds this summer and the best compliment that can be paid to him is that the retirement of Matt Prior because of a wrecked Achilles, so removing any possibility of him playing out his career in county cricket, has hardly been noticed. He struck 103, falling when he hooked Morris to deep square. They put on 335 together last season against Durham. "We complement each other," Wright said. "I stay a bit more leg side and that can help us."
By the end of their suffering, Worcestershire's pace trio looked spent. When Sussex called off the punishment, only three Division One pace bowlers - Steve Magoffin, Chris Rushworth and James Harris - had sent down more overs than Joe Leach (third in the PCA's Most Valuable Player table for the Championship), Charlie Morris and Jack Shantry.
With Saeed Ajmal's magic no longer in evidence, they have shouldered the burden manfully, but the competitiveness seems to be draining from them and, although they will have the West Indies quick Shannon Gabriel in support for the last two games, they are more in need of help from Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. Ajmal is departing early to celebrate Hajj, a long-standing arrangement that will not weaken Worcestershire on September surfaces.
There are two Luke Wrights as far as entertainment in England goes. Luke Wright, the cricketer, has not as far as can be ascertained ever been confused with Luke Wright the performance poet. He has never been described as a decadent booze hound or as flouncing around looking fabulous and he has never played the Edinburgh Fringe. He is one of cricket's solid citizens: even tempered, dependable, good to watch.
But Luke Wright, the poet, did once write a poem called Mondeo Man, essentially about the ambitions of someone born in suburbia, and there was a time when his namesake was England's Mondeo Man: solid, unspectacular, expected only to achieve so much. It is good to see him blossoming as he enters his 30s, not just a travelling T20 specialist, but a Sussex one-day batsman and a dangerous Championship batsman who has passed 1000 runs in a season, comfortably, for the first time.
Wright had 98 overnight and spent 25 balls over his century. Immediately, he stepped up the tempo. There were lusty blows towards all Worcester's oft-described landmarks: Ajmal lofted straight for six towards the old scorebox, a slog-swept six off Ajmal sailing towards the cathedral, tawny brown against a grey skyline, and another six, this time against the jauntily geometrical puzzle of Shantry, peppering the stand in front of the Ladies Pavilion. Luke Wright the poet once complained in a poem about Nigel Farage about England's "cod lament for tea and scones" so on this occasion we had better not reference the cakes.
There were no sixes towards the Premier Inn, as far as can be recalled, although that is unlikely to gain a mention unless brutish architecture comes into vogue.
The only Sussex batsman to find life taxing was their stand-in captain, Chris Nash, who had retired hurt with mild concussion the previous day when he was struck by a bouncer from Morris and, soon after returning to the crease upon Brown's dismissal, he was rapped on the hand by the same bowler. At least he made 90 for his troubles.
Wright was dropped three times by a Worcestershire side that spurned half a dozen in all, the first of them, on 118, an edge to third slip which came just after Leach had taken the second new ball. Leach was deputising as captain for Daryl Mitchell, who was absent until early afternoon to see his wife give birth to a daughter, Ava. When Mitchell returned, somewhat disorientated, and missed the simplest of chances at extra cover off Shantry, it was lugubriously observed that he was the second Mitchell to drop one that day - the sort of mordant observation that might find its way into one of Luke Wright's more risqué stanzas. The performance poet, not the cricketer.
David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps