Nottinghamshire v Sussex, County Championship, Trent Bridge May 21, 2008

Sussex edge tight day

John Ward at Trent Bridge

Sussex 277 and 70 for 2 (Yardy 31*, Goodwin 7*) lead Nottinghamshire 251 (Wagh 54, Voges 53, Collymore 4-47) by 96 runs

In the crucial match between the table leaders Nottinghamshire and the reigning champions Sussex, the southern team finished the second day slightly ahead, after taking a small lead on first innings. But the match is still very much alive, building up towards a climax, with a result almost certain barring unexpected rain. The ball moved off the seam and in the air for most of the day, though not excessively, and no individual player stood out above the rest.

Nottinghamshire, 46 for 2 overnight, made a quiet beginning with Mark Wagh and Adam Voges looking to consolidate. After half an hour, Mushtaq Ahmed came on to bowl for the first time since his minor knee operation. His first over was a good maiden, tossed right up to the bat and played with care. Thereafter, though, he did not appear to be in quite his best form, straying at times in line and length.

Voges reached his fifty and then departed for 53 (86 balls), driving a catch straight to extra cover. Wagh, who had been batting quietly, then took over the role of aggressor and set out in particular to dominate Mushtaq, driving him handsomely, especially on the off side. Mushtaq bowled a ten-over spell for 48 runs and perhaps should have been removed a little earlier to regroup. He still managed to get in one or two of his typically vociferous appeals, though, but in vain.

Wagh fell for 54 (106 balls), a thick edge yielding a catch in the gully, and his team had reason to rue the fact that neither he nor Voges went on to record a major innings. True, it was none too easy to score against the seamers with the ball moving about, but a head-down workmanlike century would have been worth its weight in IPL gold.

After lunch, Robin Martin-Jenkins bowled a particularly impressive spell, consistently accurate and moving the ball just enough to trouble the batsmen. He removed Samit Patel and Mark Ealham, whom he also had dropped, and deserved more. Graeme Swann and Paul Franks began a recovery with some sound batting, while Mushtaq in his second spell again strayed at times off line, although bowling many testing deliveries. More consistency will come.

Franks, sparring, was caught at the wicket off Corey Collymore for 20, and then Darrin Pattinson gave Mushtaq some joy with an irresponsible swing that had him clean bowled. Last man Charlie Shreck, career batting average 4, did not inspire Swann with much confidence, despite surviving five balls from Mushtaq, and he had a swing at Collymore, skying a catch to mid-off for 37.

Notts were thus dismissed for 251, a deficit of 26. Collymore, a quietly effective West Indian paceman, took 4 for 47 and Martin-Jenkins 3 for 36, both showing the virtues of steady persistence.

Batting a second time, Sussex again lost their openers quickly, and the atmosphere between the teams deteriorated as Nottinghamshire failed to win several strong appeals just before the close, most notably one by Franks, who was convinced Michael Yardy had edged the ball to the keeper. Yardy was still there at the close, accompanied by Murray Goodwin, who was at his most obdurate in his determination to be there for the crucial third day.

Victory will probably go to the team that can apply the most consistent pressure on its opponents. It is a match for patient batting, consistent bowling and safe fielding, with the bowlers overall having done their job the best to date. The catching has been fallible for both sides, but the match could yet be won by a batsman with the sheer willpower to build a major innings.