Lancashire v Sussex, Liverpool, 1st day July 31, 2007

Murali sparks Sussex collapse

John Ward at Liverpool

Lancashire 50 for 2 (Chilton 17*, Law 14*) trail Sussex 274 (Nash 75, Goodwin 74*, Muralitharan 5-53) by 224 runs

A day of fluctuating fortunes at Liverpool ended with the match well poised, as Lancashire replied to Sussex's total of 274 with 50 for 2. They included Andrew Flintoff in their team, but the expectation was that he would play purely as a batsman.

It was a traditional day of Championship cricket, too. The sun shone all day; there was a quietly appreciative crowd in excess of 3000; a lot of good (although not brilliant) cricket was played and the balance of the match shifted during the day. However, it slightly spoilt by a very poor over-rate, a problem that cricket authorities worldwide appear incapable of dealing with effectively.

The same teams met at this venue during 2006, when Lancashire won in two days on a relaid pitch that gave bounce. There was certainly bounce in the pitch today, especially at the Pavilion End, as the Sussex opener Richard Montgomerie discovered during a fine opening spell by Glen Chapple, when he was caught at third slip off the glove for 12.

It appeared to be a good decision by Sussex to bat first. Apart from Chapple the Lancashire seamers were not able to sustain the pressure with the new ball, and against solid batting from Chris Nash (75) and Mike Yardy (47). Their stand of 97, built on determined accumulation rather than sparkling strokeplay, gave Sussex the early advantage, taking them to 131 for 1 shortly after lunch.

They could not have envisaged that after their dismissals, only one of their team-mates would even reach double figures. This was Murray Goodwin, who made a slow start and was never in particularly fluent form on this pitch, but nevertheless knuckled down to a disciplined, invaluable innings.

The main bowling beneficiary, perhaps inevitably, was Muttiah Muralitharan, who took 5 for 53. Until the fall of the third wicket, he was handled quite confidently by the top-order, but that changed when the captain Chris Adams (2) advanced down the pitch to him, checked a drive and gave a simple return catch - to his mortified disgust.

This began the slide, although Murali probably received no more help from the pitch than he did from the batsmen themselves, some of whom presented him with remarkably soft dismissals. They certainly failed to give Goodwin the support he deserved and needed, leaving him stranded on 74 out of an ultimately disappointing total of 274.

Sussex were soon roused by a brilliant catch at third slip, to dismiss Mal Loye for 6, by Mike Yardy, who promptly gave a Monty Panesar-type celebration. The bowler was Naved-ul-Hasan, whose opening partner Jason Lewry soon provided a fine delivery to have Brad Hodge (7) edging to second slip. Lancashire were 25 for 2, and their hard-won advantage was disappearing.