Joyce and Wells cement Sussex's superiority
Sussex 342 for 4 (Joyce 106, Wells 104*, Nash 65) lead Derbyshire 150 (Thakor 47*, Magoffin 4-23) by 192 runs
Sussex consider themselves a Division One club in exile, temporarily marooned in Division Two. With three Championship titles this century, that is their right. But their return to Division Two has not been kind: May is almost out, and they have yet to win a game.
No one would have thought it from the swagger with which they have played this match. This was a day so unmatched that it may as well have been Pranav Dhanawade, the 15-year-old from Mumbai, striking 1000 in an innings against boys many years his younger in January.
Derbyshire's bowlers could have forgiven for thinking they had been here before. So they had: at Derby earlier this month, Ed Joyce and Luke Wells added 310 for the second wicket before the hosts were reprieved by inclement weather.
Against bowling that was ragtag and both sides of the wicket, and fielding that fell below exemplary, the two threatened to repeat that feat. In the end they had to be content with adding 135, but both made chanceless and utterly dominant centuries.
Wells' hundred was particularly welcome. He has marked himself out as a classic opening batsman of the old-school, using his huge stride forward to inoculate his wicket against harm. But his form has stagnated in recent years, to the extent that he was grateful for his improving legspin to preserve his spot in the team.
When Chris Gayle returns to county cricket at Hove on Wednesday, Wells will not be required: the vagaries of the schedule, such a gripe on the county circuit, do not afflict him, because he is essentially a red-ball specialist. Here, though, there were plenty of shots capable of lighting up T20 night at Hove. Several deliveries were flicked impudently from off stump to the leg-side boundary, including a four from Tom Taylor that secured his hundred, and Wayne Madsen's offspin was even lofted over long on for six.
Joyce was even more dominant. He had thundered 250 at Derby earlier this month, fusing his trademark elegance with understated power, and played in the same spirit here. Each landmark was brought up with a six: his 50 with an imperious hook; Sussex's lead by caressing a ball over Madsen's head and into the press box; and his century by waltzing down the pitch and lofting Madsen over extra cover.
Even if his ending was a little tame, getting caught in a tangle and ballooning a ball to leg slip, Joyce had provided another reminder of what Sussex will miss if, as expected, he returns to Ireland after this season: his first-class record for Sussex is now 7976 at 49.55 apiece. Hove locals say that a bit of Joyce might remain here, in a portrait in Sussex's legends' lane: the club just need someone to stump up £250, plus VAT.
After this day, Derbyshire's players might feel like spending rather more at the Hove ale festival, perhaps even trying each of the 38 different varieties on offer.
Having decided not to insert Sussex on the first day, when play did not begin until 4pm after the showers, Derbyshire were pummelled under the sunshine. That Madsen, with 11 first-class wickets in 134 games in his career, found himself in the unlikely position of being their leading bowler rather summed it all up: he bowled more overs today than he had the entirety of the 2015 season. Madsen, who bowled tidily enough, was not the cause of Derbyshire's problems but rather a symptom of them. All the while Billy Godleman could only long to fling the ball to Mark Footitt.
Instead, as a funereal air rapidly overtook his fielders, Godleman had to endure the sight of Ross Taylor striding out at 248 for 2, bristling with intent and in the mood to continue his recent T20 pyrotechnics. Taylor did so for long enough to leave the abiding sense that this was, indeed, a Division One batting line-up, gorging themselves against distinctly Division Two bowling.
Tim Wigmore is a freelance journalist and author of Second XI: Cricket in its Outposts