Sussex 291 for 6 (Joyce 92, Archer 60*, Jordan 59*) trail Essex 358 (ten Doeschate 83, Lawrence 65, Jordan 4-99, Archer 3-84) by 67 runs
There Luke Wright was, wandering slowly from the field, strangled down the leg-side off David Masters, the sixth of six wickets to fall for just 49. Harry Finch, with a broken thumb, would only bat if absolutely required, so Wright's big plan to haul Sussex back into the game looked in tatters, with just the bowlers left to bat.
That plan, for the first half of the day, had been going so well. First thing, Chris Jordan, a little luckless yet also a wee bit wayward on day one, bowled with verve and pace to dock Essex's meek tail, picking up four wickets for five runs, as just 21 was added to the overnight score.
Then, for an hour each side of lunch, Ed Joyce batted with grace and class in the company of the more watchful Chris Nash to reach 124 without loss. Barely a bat was beaten, hardly an appeal uttered in anger. Joyce was in total control; he drove with precision, flicked crisply to leg and cut and pulled with elegance. When 100 came up, he had 72 and a fourth Championship century of the season - and 46th in first-class cricket (it is his stated aim to reach 50 this season) - seemed a formality. Nash, capable of scoring at such a lick, blocked away in awe.
Then, unplanned, came afternoon drinks. On a warm afternoon, Essex's fielders were beginning to look beleaguered - and perhaps beguiled by Joyce - regrouped. The tight line, and perhaps a little nip, of Masters, with the first over of the break, caught Nash napping, and James Foster took a fine catch low to his right. Next over, Luke Wells appeared to nick off to Graham Napier, but - with Essex incredulous and fielders delivering a volley of abuse to the batsman - the umpire adjudged it was arm, not bat. It mattered not, as next ball Wells pulled a bumper straight to fine leg. Send-offs - needless to say - followed.
Another couple of overs on and it was Joyce out hooking, while David Wiese came and went for a breezy 13, which included two fine straight drives, before he edged the impressive Tom Moore - who sage judges in these parts say is playing for his future at Essex - to the lone slip. After tea, Wright's wicket immediately followed that of Ben Brown, through his stroke early and caught at mid-on, and 124 for 0 had become 173 for 6.
Then Jofra Archer, who bowled with such promise on day one, joined his mentor - and the man who arranged for him to come from their native Barbados and play in southern England, Chris Jordan, in the middle. While they made a scratchy start, they both settled and, on a pitch with wonderful carry, the Essex seamers - Ryan ten Doeschate appears to have inherited his clubmate Alastair Cook's distrust of spinners - tired once more.
Jordan and Archer - which sounds rather like a Hello! magazine cover in the noughties - went tit for tat. Jordan pulled beautifully on the front foot so Archer - who enjoyed the majority of the strike - handsomely cover drove, before standing tall to wallop Porter for six over square-leg. They moved to 50 in consecutive balls in Dan Lawrence's solitary over and, by stumps, the partnership - all stylish, swashbuckling fare - was worth 118, and the lead had been eroded to just 67. Wright needn't have looked so hangdog after all.
"Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant," enthused their coach, Mark Davis, "we had got ourselves in a really good position through the openers, and from there, you hope to have a proper day with the bat, and get 500. But that didn't prove to be, we lost a few, then those two came together - what an amazing partnership, and it got us back in the game.
"Jofra came in in a tricky situation but is a pretty fearless cricketer with bat and ball. He's not fazed by the occasion, or by playing his first few games in this country. You can't really instill that in players. He's not just a bowler, he's an allrounder and we are really excited to have him in our ranks. He's had a great week, he's very driven and is quick learner. CJ knows him very well, he's the one who got him over in the first place, they know each other well. He's always said how good he is. He could be a superstar for us."
Jordan's excellence with the bat - and as a leader, too, perhaps - was matched by his early showing with the ball. Ashar Zaidi had one too many swish and was caught behind, while nightwatchman Porter was trapped plumb in front. Masters' nick made it four in 13 balls, then Moore's stumps went flying. With the dangerous Napier, playing his final game on his home ground, left stranded, Jordan - not for the last time - had got his team out of trouble. Much more work lies ahead for Jordan, but thanks in large part to he and Archer, a thrilling contest awaits.
Essex vs Sussex
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England Domestic Season
Will Macpherson writes on cricket for the Guardian, ESPNcricinfo and All Out Cricket. @willis_macp