Wasteful Lancashire left battling
Lancashire 333 for 7 (Sutton 40*, Smith 1*) v Hampshire
Four batting points is the vital mark for Lancashire because it leaves them on track for a 21-point win, which would force Sussex to secure a win at Trent Bridge rather than play for a draw. If Lancashire fall short of 350, a 12-point draw would be sufficient for Sussex and, depressingly for Lancashire, they are well placed for that after their first day.
Still, though, nothing is decided and it was a curious opening day on the south coast for many reasons. Lancashire's top seven all passed 26 yet Law's 75 was the highest score; Shane Warne went wicketless through 29 overs and the Hampshire spinner to make his mark was Greg Lamb. To top it all Lancashire started the day by picking James Anderson who, according to the ECB's directive, is restricted to 12 overs per innings.
The return of Anderson to Championship action will be the focal point of the second day - he might even have some batting to do first - but the first skirmishes were all about the batsmen setting a foundation. Lancashire's run-scoring throughout the season has revolved around Loye and Law, the only two to pass 1000 runs, and again they provided the heavyweight contribution in the middle-order.
Hampshire had been restricted to the wickets of both openers in the morning session and after lunch Loye, especially, took the attack to the bowlers in typically forthright manner. His fifty came off 98 balls, with a powerful square drive, and the crispness of the strokeplay again suggested England have missed a trick in not at least trying him in one-day internationals.
It came out of the blue when Lamb spun a delivery between bat and pad for his first Championship wicket of the season, following his match-winning 4 for 38 in the Pro40 against Yorkshire at the weekend.
Law, though, despite suffering from a knee injury that has dogged the latter stages of his season had progressed comfortably past his half-century in a typically unflustered manner. His dismissal, a lame chip to midwicket, needed a second glance as it was so unexpected and celebrated in a very tame manner by the Hampshire fielders.
With the big guns back in the pavilion Hampshire had a chance to pull themselves back into the match and reignite their hopes of second place. However, Luke Sutton and Glen Chapple formed a stand of 63 for the sixth wicket - Chapple providing the biff, with his straight drive six off Lamb the day's only maximum, and Sutton the block.
Hampshire took the new ball at the start of 97th over and James Bruce used it to impressive effect as he'd done in the morning session. In his second over back, he produced a delivery that nipped back off the seam and removed Chapple's middle stump via an inside edge.
When Dominic Cork lost his off stump to Dimitri Mascarenhas a comfortable skip towards maximum batting points was transformed into a battle to earn a vital fourth. There are 17 runs to go, a margin that will have a huge bearing on whether the Championship is still bubbling come tomorrow evening.
Andrew McGlashan is editorial assistant of Cricinfo