Sussex127 and 15 for 0 trail Lancashire 494 for 6 dec (Vilas 132*, Jones 88, Davies 72, Jennings 65, Maxwell 59) by 352 runs
Invitations do not come any pleasanter than that offered to Lancashire's batsmen on the second morning of this game. They already possessed a 22-run lead on first innings and now had the opportunity to extend it for as long as they wished; they had nine wickets in hand and the pitch was good, although you would not have guessed so from the way Sussex had batted on the first day. Lancastrians, by contrast, had the chance to be greedy.
Yet rather like polite diners when presented with a huge and delicious smorgasbord, Lancashire's batsmen displayed perfect manners. Almost everyone helped themselves to something substantial but only Dane Vilas partook of rollmops, fläskkorv and isterband by making an unbeaten century. That, of course, was not the intention of the four other batsmen who made fifties in this innings; they wanted centuries as well. Yet when Vilas finally called his players from the table by declaring on 494 for 6 seven overs before the close, their combined efforts had given Lancashire a monstrous lead of 367. Sussex's openers trimmed 15 runs from that advantage in four overs before the close but Ben Brown's players face a colossal test of their techniques and temperaments over the next couple of days. At least they will hope it is a couple of days and not a session and a bit.
Ah yes, Sussex. They were so far behind after the first day of this game that it was occasionally hard to see what Brown's team could salvage from affairs. Respectability might have been identified as one aim but that has always been a poor consolation prize and almost an admission of inferiority following only three sessions of cricket. These, though, are the days when coaches discover a great deal about their players: in Sussex's case their ability to fight when even a draw seems a distant goal. It is often forgotten how tough a game professional county cricket can be.
Judged by all these standards, Sussex performed creditably on the second day of this game. They never quite let their heads drop even when Vilas was cutting loose in his 123-run stand with Steven Croft after tea. They prevented Lancashire collecting a full haul of bonus points, although the pitch may have had something to do with that, and they produced the moment of the match when Delray Rawlins leapt from backward point to complete an astonishing one-handed catch to remove Keaton Jennings for 65 off the bowling of Mir Hamza in the seventh over of the day. Rawlins sprinted away delightedly; Jennings, who had middled a full-blooded cut, just stood there for some seconds before dragging himself off.
That first breakthrough for Sussex was followed five overs later by a second when Haseeb Hameed, the only Lancashire batsman to fail, was leg before wicket to David Wiese for 11. Replays suggested the point of contact was outside the off stump but the truth remained that Hameed's very patchy season had continued.
All the same Sussex had enjoyed their best moments of the day. For the rest of the morning Glenn Maxwell and Jones played with increasing assurance and had taken their partnership to 93 when Maxwell skied a pull off Abi Sakande and Phil Salt pouched a straightforward catch running back from slip. The Australian had made 59, his highest score in first-class cricket since December 2017, and he had nursed Jones through the early stages of what was to be another significant innings in the fast developing career of this remarkable young batsman.
Indeed, at one stage it seemed that Jones would also make a century but he had to be content with a mere 88 after once again revealing a rare ability to thread the ball through midwicket off Rawlins or straight drive Luke Wells. And these were just two of his delights. However, in the over before tea Will Beer gained a little revenge for the spin bowlers' collective when he tempted Jones forward with a legspinner on a good length only for the batsman to then go back and be bowled when failing to cover the turn. But young Jones had passed 500 runs in the Championship and can look back on a good season. Whether Sussex are able to do the same thing will depend on the degree to which they locate their powers of resistance over the next two days and then over their final four Championship matches of the season. One has the feeling that so much at Hove rides on how they perform at Old Trafford tomorrow.