Lancashire crash to 108-run defeat
Sussex 274 and 268 (Yardy 52, Goodwin 68) beat Lancashire 301 and 133 (Loye 40, Mushtaq 4-71) by 108 runs
A match of fluctuating fortunes had a surprisingly tame finish, as Sussex moved to the top of the championship table with a 108-run victory at Liverpool. Lancashire, whose batting failed them dismally at the crunch, virtually surrendered their own championship hopes for another year.
True to the pattern of this match, the balance during the morning session shifted from one side to the other. Sussex had finished the second day on 127 for 2, with Mike Yardy and Murray Goodwin firmly entrenched on 52 and 68 respectively. Both fell without adding to their overnight scores, Yardy caught down the leg side trying to glance a poor ball from Dominic Cork, and Goodwin caught in the slips off a fine delivery from Glen Chapple that moved away off the pitch.
Their replacements, Chris Adams (42) and Carl Hopkinson (32), fought back well after a dogged start, taking their team through almost to lunch - before both fell in quick succession to Muttiah Muralitharan to bring Lancashire back to even terms again. Adams was caught on the midwicket boundary lofting a sweep, after being dropped off a similar stroke when 19. This proved to be a very significant miss. Who knows how the match might have gone had it been held?
Andrew Flintoff did some more bowling during the morning session. He worked up an impressive pace, overdid the bouncers, and suffered several snicks to the boundary - which he took with wry good humour. He finished with the interesting figures of 8-5-26-0.
Lancashire continued to fight back during the afternoon session, and the Sussex innings steadily subsided for 268. With Lancashire requiring 242 to win, the match was still finely balanced. Murali had the best bowling figures for Lancashire, 3 for 120 off 31.2 overs, although he was less impressed himself as he inspected the scorebook. He bowled some of his usual magic balls, but was uncharacteristically inaccurate at times.
A good finish looked assured as Mal Loye attacked the bowling confidently from the start of the Lancashire chase, and Adams, the Sussex captain, brought Mushtaq Ahmed on quickly, and kept him on. Both sides went at it hammer and tongs, but it was Lancashire who cracked. They reached 65 for 1 before the final twist of the match. It was supplied by the unsung Robin Martin-Jenkins, who had bowled erratically in the first innings: now, in quick succession, he had Brad Hodge caught at the wicket and produced a superb yorker to bowl Loye.
Flintoff proved a big disappointment to his home crowd, as he failed to knuckle down and apply himself to the situation. Before tea he appeared to have a charmed life. His first scoring stroke would have been straight down the throat of long-on had he been on the boundary instead of 20 yards inside, and then a leading edge looped just clear of the off-side fielders. Immediately after tea, he tried to pull Mushtaq and lobbed a simple catch off the top-edge to backward point. He departed for 11, with some of the crowd making their disenchantment clear.
As long as Stuart Law was there, Lancashire had hope. Unlike Flintoff, he tried to dig deep, but was caught at slip for 16 off the reliable Naved-ul-Hasan. Lancashire were now 97 for 5, and it was all downhill from here. The remaining batsmen showed little fight as the two Pakistani bowlers, in their different styles, worked their way down the list to bring their team an unexpectedly comfortable victory. Mushtaq took four wickets and Naved three. Adams's astute captaincy had much to do with it, but Lancashire had nobody to blame but themselves.