Essex 358 and 163 and 4 lead Sussex 448 (Jordan 131, Joyce 92, Archer 73, Napier 5-114) by 73 runs Scorecard
At some stage around 11.15 on the second morning, Chris Jordan ambled over - as Chris Jordan does - located the scruff of this game's neck and promptly grabbed it. He has not let go since, picking up the final four first-innings wickets in double-quick time, then scoring a maiden first-class century to steer Sussex from choppy waters (a collapse of 6 for 49) to a handsome lead of 90.
When Essex batted for a second time, Nick Browne turned Jordan's fourth ball straight to square leg, and he summoned the last of his seemingly boundless energy to end a dangerously pesky third-wicket stand, with Dan Lawrence trapped in front. Even his withdrawal from the attack had a touch of class, as Tom Westley feathered his replacement David Wiese behind first ball. He will return on Sunday, rested and raring for Essex's final six wickets.
If he can find those wickets, Sussex - even as the old lags Ryan ten Doeschate and James Foster shared a streaky but vital 52 late on, extending Essex's lead to 73 - have the chance to kickstart a curious season that sees them unbeaten after nine games having won just one. As long as Leicestershire fail to beat Derbyshire, Essex need a draw to go back past the new leaders Kent. The chase for the single promotion spot is set to be a barnburner, and this - a fine match on a fair, fast-scoring pitch - is crucial for both sides.
Jordan's was a magnificent, measured innings that eked every run out of Sussex's tail. In Jofra Archer and Danny Briggs, Jordan found a pair of able deputies, sharing 140, then 92, and still he found 43 thereafter. When the more extravagant Archer fell early for a superb 73, caught behind off David Masters, Jordan simply regrouped, stuck his head down and strolled along, adding a patient 40 - the last four of which came from a delicate sweep off Ashar Zaidi - to his overnight 59 to sit tantalisingly short of his maiden century as he settled down for lunch.
Was he nervous? Was he heck. Nerves, it's fair to say, are not Jordan's bag; angsty sorts do not death bowlers make. "I wasn't too worried!" he laughed, "I just had to keep a level head and if it was meant to be it would be… I knew that if I kept doing what I'd been doing I'd get there in the end, although it ended up being a bit streaky!" Streaky it was, as he inside-edged the fourth delivery of the first over, his 164th, after the break to fine leg to move to 103. "Ah, it would have been nice to bring it up in style but that wasn't meant to be. I'd worked hard to get to that stage, so maybe I deserved a bit of luck!"
He had, as that was his first false stroke. Graham Napier, who took the wicket of Briggs for a composed and fun-filled 49 an over later (before mopping up the rest to finish with five wickets), noted that Jordan "played like a man who has scored 100 hundreds," not just one.
The innings' tempo was the key, as Jordan allowed those he trusted - particularly Archer, but also Briggs (who drove beautifully having joined him still 45 behind) - to play their strokes, before accelerating himself. There were two extremely handsome sixes, straight and over extra cover - when joined by the injured Harry Finch and limited Steve Magoffin. His strokeplay in front and behind point stood out, but so did his ability to find a single; vitally, Jordan tired Essex out.
When he finally fell, carting to cow corner, a clinic in revitalising a lame and tame tail came to an end. "I'm pretty happy with the tempo that I batted at," Jordan reflected, "I came in when we were in a bit of trouble but I took one ball at a time, trying to build partnerships with anyone who was out there with me. Credit to Jofra and Briggs who put on key partnerships with me."
At one stage, when Wiese prized out Westley, who lost his trademark fluency after an attractive start, it appeared Jordan's efforts would be rewarded with a day off on Sunday. But thanks to ten Doeschate and Foster, back Essex will charge. Ten Doeschate, particularly, played within himself, weathering a barrage of bouncers - and verbals, some of which were returned, with interest (and interest from the umpires) - from Archer, who had earlier dismissed Jaik Mickleburgh lbw.
Jordan felt the pitch so free-scoring that Sussex would chance their arm to chase upwards of 200, but Napier knew Essex required - especially after their lanky-looking tail was so easily cleaned up on Friday morning - more of the same from ten Doeschate and Foster. "We're going to have to bat out most of the day tomorrow," he said bullishly, ahead of his final day on his home ground. "We cannot give them anything in the first session."