Lancashire v Sussex, Old Trafford, 2nd day August 7, 2008

Nash gives Sussex crucial advantage

John Ward at Old Trafford

Lancashire 206 for and 9 for 1 trail Sussex 316 (Nash 108, Prior 73) by 101 runs

Chris Nash's maiden first-class century could not have come at a better time for Sussex. Thanks to his fighting spirit and mature strokeplay, they were at the time of his dismissal looking well set to move into an invulnerable position. Unfortunately for them, the later batsmen threw away much of this advantage, but Sussex still held a considerable edge after the second day.

Despite an unfavourable forecast, there was no rain and quite a bit of sun at times. Perhaps the best cricket of the day came during the first forty minutes. Armed with a newish ball, Glenn Chapple and Dominic Cork swung and cut the ball as they bowled with real intent, forcing the overnight batsmen, Nash and Michael Thornely, to defend for their lives. Cork, on his 37th birthday, still looked at his peak in this form, and he was rewarded with the wicket of Thornely, who tried to shoulder arms to a big inswinger, only to play it on to his stumps via the bottom of his bat. At one stage Sussex were 22 for 1 off 15 overs, and it was mainly due to the skill of Nash that no more wickets fell at this time.

Sajid Mahmood bowled well at first, but then seemed to lose control, and the tide began to turn in favour of the batsmen. Gary Keedy came on to bowl, and in his first over almost tempted Nash into an error, his drive just failing to carry to mid-off. But Luke Wright could not get going in the aggressive manner to which he is accustomed, and had 20 to his account when he slashed at a ball from Mahmood and was caught at the wicket; 71 for 2.

Mahmood greeted Murray Goodwin with an accidental beamer, but the batsman quickly raced into double figures off his loose deliveries. In the meantime, just before lunch, Nash reached his well-earned 50 with an edge for four, potentially a slip catch, off 107 balls.

Had the tea interval been held at the normal time - it over-ran by 25 minutes, helped by lengthy delays for changing the ball twice, and for drinks - the afternoon session would have been the one during which Sussex took a virtual strangehold on the match. Goodwin was soon out for 18, slashing at a ball from Chapple outside the off stump. But at this stage the bowling looked less threatening, save for another fine but unavailing spell from Cork. Matt Prior went on the attack almost from the start, looking in superb form with his crisp, powerful pulls and drives, racing to his 50 off 56 balls.

After this, though, there seemed to be almost a reversal of roles, as Prior's adrenalin seemed to run dry and Nash surged onwards from the eighties to his long-awaited century, which took 188 balls. He showed no signs of nerves and caused umpire Trevor Jesty to duck sharply with a powerful straight drive for four when in the nineties, before bringing up three figures with a handsome boundary through extra cover. Sussex were soon in the lead with only three wickets down and threatening to run away with the match.

In the 'extra time' before tea, which demand the bowling of 58 overs before tea, though, both batsmen were out, having added 125 runs in partnership. Steven Croft was the man who did the job: Nash, in trying to work a straight ball to leg, was trapped lbw for 108, and Prior, who never regained his dynamism, was perhaps frustrated into slashing a catch to backward point for 73. Sussex were now 238 for 5, still in control but without the iron grip that had looked possible.

That control evaporated in the disastrous hour after tea. The bowling was good, but the cause was more down to poor batting. Chris Adams, not in good form batted positively, but ran out his partner, Carl Hopkinson after risking a quick single near Faf du Plessis in the covers. Adams then padded up to a ball from Keedy and showed his disgust at being given out lbw for 18; this was another example of how county players are allowed to get away with far more than is permitted in international cricket.

In quick succession, Ollie Rayner (0) swatted a catch to mid-on and Mushtaq Ahmed (7) skied to backward point. Four wickets had fallen for 10 runs, but the last pair frustrated Lancashire in an annoying partnership eventually worth 40. Robin Martin-Jenkins drove a six to bring up the 300, and finished unbeaten with 27; Jason Lewry enjoyed several slices of luck and played some unorthodox strokes and fortunate snicks in his 15 before he swung grossly across the line and was bowled by Cork. The total was 316, the lead a more-than-useful 110.

Lancashire had five overs to bat before the close, but in that time they lost the wicket of Lou Vincent, edging a ball from Martin-Jenkins to first slip for 4. Their batsmen face an uphill fight on the third day - but at least they are not out of the game yet.