Mahmood impresses as match ends in draw
Lancashire 236 (Loye 58, du Plessis 54, Chapple 39, Martin-Jenkins 5-43) and 0 for 0 drew with Sussex 240 (Yardy 86, Mahmood 4-87)
The predictable draw materialised before four o'clock on the final day, with the match almost as evenly balanced as was possible. There was much of interest, though, in the final stages of the first innings, as Sussex looked likely to take a sizeable lead. Some fine Lancashire pace bowling, with Sajid Mahmood pre-eminent, decided otherwise, and eventually only an entertaining last-wicket partnership gave Sussex a slender advantage in the first innings - which was as far as this rain-ravaged match could go.
Sussex resumed at their overnight score of 119 for 1, facing 236, with Michael Yardy and Ed Joyce on 64 and 39 respectively. They did not have an easy time of it, as Mahmood in particular worked up a good pace and found some movement off the pitch. He bowled a testing opening over to Joyce and in his next he fired in a full-length delivery as the batsman moved across his stumps to trap him lbw for 40. This ended a good partnership of 94 between the two batsmen.
Only six runs were added for the loss of Joyce in 5.2 overs before the umpires took everybody off for bad light, and 55 minutes were lost. The bowlers were less challenging on their return, and Murray Goodwin batted enterprisingly for his 29 off 36 balls, running well between the wickets, before edging a good fast delivery from Mahmood that moved away from him. At lunch Sussex had moved to 164 for 3, but Yardy had only added 14 runs during the morning, struggling to find his form of the previous evening.
Mahmood again impressed after lunch, but Yardy stood firm, along with Carl Hopkinson, whose most impressive stroke was a superb drive between the bowler and mid-on for four, taking him to double figures. Ironically, it was only when Mahmood took a break that things began to happen for Lancashire, perhaps a case of fatal relaxation with the most dangerous bowler off, and once the slide began it could not be arrested.
Oliver Newby, who has had an undistinguished season before today, replaced Mahmood at 190 for 3, and immediately Yardy, to his disgust, followed a ball that moved away from him and edged it to the keeper; he scored 86 off 175 balls. Hopkinson almost holed out to mid-on from an injudicious pull, but in the same over from Kyle Hogg, Andrew Hodd edged a catch to second slip. Dwayne Smith smacked first Hogg and then Newby for extravagant fours to midwicket, but was then trapped lbw for 8 by a yorker from Newby.
Hopkinson was next to go, for 19, Laxman taking another good diving catch in the slips, but Newby looked the more dangerous of the two, moving the ball in sharply to the right-hander - perhaps a little too much at times, as when the left-hander Piyush Chawla was facing, with five slips and a gully behind him. Robin Martin-Jenkins was another lbw victim to Hogg, perhaps a little unluckily, and five wickets had fallen in 31 balls for 13 runs, Hogg taking 3 in 16. This was worsened when Ollie Rayner tamely popped a ball from Newby into the slips; Sussex were now 209 for 9.
In the old days of points awarded for a first-innings lead, there would have been an interesting tussle now. Chawla, joined by Corey Collymore, was playing an entertaining innings, even when he failed to make contact with the ball. On his arrival, his favourite stroke was the push at the ball from Newby that whistled past his outside edge; as time went on, this progressed into the swish - which generally also failed to make contact. Finally he did get the wood to work for him, and smashed Hogg for six over cow corner.
The two batsmen ran well together, and their partnership of 31 enabled Sussex to lead the home county by four runs on the first innings, for what it was worth. The bowlers never did find the edge of Chawla's bat, for Mahmood returned in place of Hogg and quickly held a firm return catch from Collymore, who made 4. Chawla was unbeaten for his quixotic 32. There were three wickets each for Hogg and Newby, while Mahmood took 4 for 87 - and deserved more, as it was surely his threatening pace that softened up Sussex in preparation for their collapse.
An early tea was taken, but afterwards two balls sufficed to persuade the umpires that the light was inadequate. Although it improved, it was used as an excuse to bring an early end to a match which was now literally pointless, thanks to the week's unpleasant weather.